11. Memorandum for Director of Central Intelligence Helms 1

SUBJECT

  • The Lien Minh
1.
The Lien Minh (Vietnamese short title for the National Alliance for Social Revolution) is a political concept that has no American counterpart. Very roughly, it is something like an alliance of the ADA (under a Democratic administration), the UAW, the Knights of Columbus, and some elements of the League of Women Voters. The basic purpose of the Lien Minh is to stimulate the political coalescence of various groups and factions on the non-Communist side—which, in the aggregate, comprises the majority of politically concerned Vietnamese in South Vietnam but is presently (and historically) too divided and disorganized to compete politically with its tightly disciplined Communist rivals.
2.
The long range objective of the Lien Minh exercise is to stimulate the development of a political party or parties. This, however, will not be achieved quickly, easily or soon. The more concrete short run objectives [Page 31]of Lien Minh are (1) the development of a forum for disparate political elements in which they can express common nationalist aspirations and (2) the creation of a popularly based service organization, national in scope, whose social welfare activities will have political overtones and redound to the GVN’s political benefit. (Social welfare has traditionally been viewed in Vietnam as a function of government.)
3.
The three major components of the Lien Minh are the National Salvation Front (NSF), headed by Senator (and former General) Tran Van Don; the Democratic Freedom Force (DFF), headed by Nguyen Van Huong; and the Farmer-Worker Association, headed by trade union (CVT) leader Tran Quoc Buu. The NSF is a loose political coalition of various political groups that emerged more or less spontaneously in the aftermath of Tet, but was viewed with reservations by Thieu because of the NSF’s ties to the Ky camp. The DFF is another political organization and is, in effect, the Thieu camp’s answer to the NSF. Though many fairly important groups or factions are left out (e.g., Catholic groups, Dai Viets, the northern VNQDD) the Lien Minh amalgam does include at least some elements of all major religious, regional and political groups and is the broadest thing going in Vietnam today. (See the Annex for a more detailed break-out of the Lien Minh’s composition.)2
4.
A total of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] has been passed to Thieu to support Lien Minh: [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] on 29 August and [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] on 5 September.
5.
On funding mechanics, Thieu has designated Nguyen Van Huong (DFF leader and the leading member of Thieu’s presidential staff) as the point of operational contact with the Lien Minh, Huong’s counterpart being CAS officer [name not declassified]. Thieu has asked, however, that all funds be passed directly to him personally and that no other Vietnamese (including Huong) be aware of U.S. financial support. The funds already given have been passed to Thieu by [name not declassified].
6.
On accountings, the physical recipient of the U.S. funds is President Thieu, the Chief of State. Thieu of course can (and should) be expected to explain or report the purposes for which these funds are used and disbursed. He can certainly be pressed for as much detailed information on these points as the Ambassador wishes to seek. Since Thieu is the Chief of State, however, diplomatic and protocol considerations [Page 32]will probably mean that we will generally have to take Thieu at his word and that he cannot be compelled to support his statements with detailed accountings backed by written records and receipts.
7.
General Recommendations: We believe the Lien Minh concept is sound and that activity along the Lien Minh line is the best politically practical method of encouraging South Vietnamese political cohesion, institutional development and—ultimately—the evolution of real political parties. We thus share the Ambassador’s view that the Lien Minh concept merits U.S. encouragement and financial support. We do have reservations about the mechanics of the Ambassador’s specific proposal, though we recognize he is the man on the scene with ultimate field responsibility.
(1)
We would greatly prefer to see the GVN making a financial input of its own from the start. Without a direct GVN input (and, hence, vested interest) there will always be the risk of the program’s being considered, even in Thieu’s eyes, an American scheme the Vietnamese are indulging.
(2)
On security grounds, we question Thieu’s ability to conceal the [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] unless there is some known Vietnamese fund raising activity of which these U.S. funds could conceivably be a part.
(3)
While we agree with the Ambassador that the Lien Minh should be gotten off the ground now, we believe that Thieu could find some funds of his own if he really supports the program and felt the necessity of giving it personal financial support. Our experience in last summer’s electoral campaign supports this belief.
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DDO/IMS Files, Job 72-207A, AA-3, FE Division, 1968. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Carver. In an attached note to Deputy Director for Plans Thomas Karamessines, Chief of the Far East Division William E. Nelson, Chief of Vietnam Operations [name not declassified], and Chief of Saigon Station [name not declassified], September 12, Carver wrote: “Attached is the final version of the briefing memorandum on Lien Minh given the Director to brace him for the 12 September Presidential lunch. In going over this with him, I reported [name not declassified] strong conviction (which I share) that although we may have some reservations about the mechanics of the Ambassador’s proposal, we feel the Lien Minh concept is sound and merits U.S. financial support. The Director agreed and said he would argue for the basic concept at the lunch.”
  2. Attached but not printed is an annex outlining the organization of the Lien Minh. It noted that the plans for the expansion of the Lien Minh included the incorporation of religious groups and gaining support from civic associations, the military, and other GVN components.