284. Letter From President Johnson to Chief of State Nguyen Van Thieu and Prime Minister Nguyen Cao Ky1
Dear Chairman Thieu and Prime Minister Ky:
I address you together, because at Honolulu, Manila, and Guam we did our work together.2
I wish you to know how much you—and the people of South Viet Nam—have been in my thoughts these days. In my thirty-five years in political life, I have been through twelve elections—some of which I won, but I have also known what it is to lose. I understand something of the emotions and the problems that go with what we call “election fever.”
It has been interesting—even exciting—for me to see your young nation going through this competitive electoral process. Thus far, I have seen few problems I have not also seen in my own country, and known in my own experience.
I believe also that the picture of the South Viet Nam election is beginning to fall into perspective in the United States.
As you come to the final intensive days of the campaign, I am sure you will continue to ensure fairness and equity to all the candidates.
I should like you to know that our government—and most of our people—have no inclination to interfere with or dictate the choice of [Page 700]leaders now being made by the people of South Viet Nam, as they move forward on the path of self-determination. In any democracy, of course, differences of view are extensive and intensive, vigorous and visible. But you should be aware that our resolve to defend Viet Nam against aggression remains firm; and the support for this course will be strengthened—here and elsewhere—by the free and fair elections we know will take place on September 3.
As you know, the election itself is only one phase in the building of effective constitutional government. Whatever the outcome, other critical tasks lie ahead: the formation of a broadly based government; the holding of parliamentary elections; the development of good working relations between the executive and the legislative; and, above all, making your constitution work effectively.
But I am writing you now not to offer advice but simply to say that I am following events in Viet Nam with interest, sympathy, and great respect for you both, for your colleagues in the government, for all the candidates who are venturing now into democratic politics, and —above all—for the gallant people of your country.3
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Head of State Correspondence File, Vol. I, Gen. Thieu & Ky. No classification marking.↩
- Reference is to the joint U.S.-Vietnamese conferences held at Honolulu in February 1966, at Manila in October 1966, and at Guam in March 1967.↩
- According to an August 18 memorandum from Frank Wisner of CORDS to Calhoun, Ky faced “enormous” difficulties since acceding to Thieu’s dominant position on the Presidential ticket, including being abandoned by former allies and being pressured by those remaining (such as Loan) to take a strong stand against Thieu, even if it meant “to prepare a coup d’etat.” Perhaps the most vexing of the problems was the fact that the Thieu-Ky campaign had run out of funds; Thieu had already obligated all of the campaign’s monies and Ky could find no alternative source. (Center for Military History, DepCORDS/MACV Files, GVN Elections (General): 1967)↩