93. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1

19263. 1. I called on Ky on Wednesday afternoon2 saying that there was “something that worried me.”

2. I began by saying how much respect there was for Ky in the United States, that his handling of the Hue/Danang situation last [Page 216]spring, the devaluation of the currency, and the move toward a constitution all had given him the appearance abroad of a “mature and skillful statesman.”

3. Now come the demonstrations in Saigon,3 which led to breaking open the French Consulate General, setting fires, beating people up. However unjustly, Ky was held responsible. If this went on he would no longer appear as a “mature and skillful statesman” but would appear “immature and clumsy.” These were the words to apply not only to the demonstrations in Saigon but also to the preposterous cock and bull story out of Paris about a coalition government in exile.

4. He knew my views about a so-called coalition government but surely the concoction about the government in exile in Paris was not the way to cope with the problem.

5. I understood that there were men of merit who might have been involved and I wished to point out that a man who shows courage and capacity as a police officer in the maintenance of law and order was not for that reason very clever about politics.

6. He had often said that I was an advisor to him on American affairs and so I felt that when I saw a little cloud “no bigger than a man’s hand” I should tell him about it before real trouble began.

7. He thanked me and said that when his permission had been requested for a demonstration against the French, he had seen no objection since it is always the French who are always trying to make trouble.

8. I said that it was perfectly all right for people to parade and carry signs, but what reminded everyone of Communist techniques was when they broke into the Consulate General and started to burn and beat people up.

9. He said it had gone too far and assured me it was all over and would not happen again. As we were going to the door, he said, rather as an afterthought, “As a matter of fact, I agree with you completely.”4

Lodge
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 14 VIET S. Secret; Limdis. Received at 9:24 a.m. Repeated to Bangkok, Paris, Vientiane, and CINCPAC for POLAD.
  2. March 1.
  3. Daily demonstrations against “false peace” had begun outside the French Consulate in Saigon after the February 24 announcement of the formation of a “government-in-exile” in Paris by Bao Dai and Nguyen Huu Tho. Speculation within South Vietnam was that the demonstrations were more the result of “rivalry” between Thieu and Ky than of the need to show “domestic determination” or “a militant stand to the world at large.” (Memorandum of conversation, March 4, enclosed in airgram A–53 from Saigon, March 16; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 14 VIET S)
  4. In an intelligence report by the CIA, March 10, Ky is described as advocating an “anti-peace movement” to counteract any attempt by the U.S. Government to install a coalition government in South Vietnam. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXVII)