379. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1
Saigon, November 2, 1967, 1230Z.
10206. For the President from Bunker. Herewith my twenty-seventh weekly telegram:
- I believe that no one could have been an observer of the events of the last few days without feeling that he had been witnessing the rebirth of a nation. One sensed everywhere a new feeling of confidence, of pride in the fact that the Vietnamese people had had the maturity to carry out five elections in the last fourteen months in the midst of war and had been able to establish institutions of representative democracy, a new determination to play a greater part in their own destiny. This came out in a good many ways—in the dignity, in the simplicity, in the good taste of the inaugural ceremonies, appropriate to war-time conditions, and in the effectiveness and precision with which they were carried out; in the restrained pageantry of the National Day celebration, the parade shorter this year because of the war but splendidly executed, to the obvious pleasure and approval of the crowds who were watching. It is interesting that Chieu Hoi contingent received a good deal of applause from the crowds and suffered no critical or derogatory comments. And President Thieu’s fine inaugural address was a call to greatness, for further sacrifices, for greater determination, for a continual search for peace.2 In it he referred to the difficulties of the past four years as having been useful in helping to determine the path to follow and opening up a great new era full of promise; in his own words “the greatness and the promise of the glories and the difficulties awaiting us.” He stated that his administration would have three guiding principles in carrying out his national program: to build democracy, to restore peace, to reform society.
- In the pursuit of peace he would propose directly to the North Vietnamese Government that it meet with the Government of South Vietnam to seek a way to end the war, that he would open the door to [Page 975]peace and leave the door always open. The Liberation Front would not be an obstacle to peace talks. As in 1954, the Front elements today have the right of choice: “Whoever believes in Marxism is free to go North. Whoever believes, as we do, in freedom and democracy may remain and work with us.”
- At the same time he made clear the “iron determination” of South Vietnam to defend the ideal of freedom and democracy. While paying tribute to the government and people of the United States and other friendly countries who had rendered assistance, he reminded his people “that the present war is still our war and the entire force of the population must be marshaled in support of the overall war effort in order to defend the freedom and sovereignty of the country, that all, civilians and soldiers alike must understand the necessity for sacrifice for the common struggle. A united effort must be made to grasp the initiative and shorten the road to peace. He pointed out that this increased effort and determination was not aimed at destroying their compatriots above the parallel. On the contrary it was designed to check the expansion of Communist aggression, to preserve stability of Southeast Asia, and to build a lasting peace for Asia and the whole world.
- He asked the people for a stronger war effort because all weapons must be employed to achieve victory, not military weapons alone but political, economic, cultural and social as well. A genuine appropriate democratic regime must be built in order to restore participation in national affairs to the people, and to reform society in order to liberate and advance the people. To this end all the people would have to endure many more sacrifices and make many more efforts. To achieve unity and solidarity many things would have to be done: (A) the army must be constantly improved and strengthened but it must also have the backing of moral support and strong popular organization on the home front; (B) a strong home guard must be organized to defend the towns in order to reduce the burdens on the fighting troops; (C) those living in the capital and other cities will have to strive and sacrifice more to reduce the appalling contrast between cities and the countryside which had long borne the greater part of the war burden; (D) and the government must win the confidence of the people so that they will voluntarily accept the efforts and the sacrifices necessary to the war effort. It must carry forward its task of building democracy and reforming society, of raising people’s living standards and education, of accelerating the national rural development policy and industrial development.
- Among the short term measures the President included a number of urgent preliminary things which he felt should be undertaken immediately: (A) to publicize more widely Vietnam’s position and to win world support for its cause; (B) in the social field defense of morals [Page 976]must be promoted, public order and measures vital to the daily life of the city people guarded and increased; (C) economic stability must be promoted and the price spiral halted; (D) national order and discipline and respect for law must be strengthened; (E) opportunities for students and civil servants to serve the nation and to employ their ability and enthusiasm must be opened up; (F) an austerity movement to eliminate the excessive disparity between the sufferings and hardships of the rural front lines and high living in the urban areas must be launched; (G) finally and most importantly corruption must be stamped out and administrative organization, procedure and personnel improved in order to serve the people better.
- In concluding the President appealed for the help of all the people in the common task of this beginning of a new era.
[Here follows discussion of other political, military, and economic matters.]
- Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Rostow transmitted a retyped copy of the telegram to the President. The notation “ps 11–3” on Rostow’s covering memorandum transmitting the copy to the President, November 2, indicated that the President saw the telegram on November 3. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 8B(1)[B]) This telegram is printed in full in Pike, The Bunker Papers, pp. 224–233.↩
- Thieu’s speech is printed in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 1010–1015.↩