251. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State 1
Saigon, December 12, 1968, 0824Z.
44649. Subject: Lien Minh.
- Having recently concluded a complete Embassy reassessment of the Lien Minh, I decided to raise that subject with President Thieu when I saw him December 11. I started by setting out for him our analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of that organization and our conclusion that the balance still comes out on the positive side although there are a number of problems, weaknesses and deficiencies. I said that in spite of these difficulties we still believe that the basic concept is sound and that the Lien Minh can command the people’s attention and can do things with the participation of the people.
- I then went on to say that while we respect the President’s judgment that he should avoid over-identification with the Lien Minh, we believe it is clear that an enterprise of this kind is not going to gather momentum, let alone become a powerful non-Communist popular movement challenging the NLF/VC apparatus, unless there is a greater expression of Presidential interest. We do not believe this needs to be in the form of an aggressive public (or even private) application of pressure; but there might be a more active, if quiet, demonstration of the President’s desire that the apparatus of government should specifically encourage the Lien Minh in appropriate ways. I cited as an example that General Lam in I Corps had repeatedly told our people that he could make a significant contribution to political unity among the divided political elements there if he knew just what the President expected of him on that score.
- Thieu said he agreed with what I had said. The only reason he was going a little slower was that he did not wish the Lien Minh to be [Page 747] an artificial creation or hot-house plant, but he wanted it to grow more naturally so that people will regard it as something genuine. This required a little time. People are skeptical about organizations of this kind, he said, since so many have sprung up only to wither away. He agreed, however, that he had to become more active in showing his support and he intended to take some action along these lines. But the Lien Minh must not be looked upon as an exclusive creation of the government; the people must be led to see it as something that is important for their own future and the future of the country and that is earning their confidence and their support.
- Picking up this remark, I turned to the question of financing. I said we had noted that there are certain liabilities in replying on paid cadres, and it seemed that Thieu himself had emphasized the importance of getting people to volunteer their services. I said we thought that volunteer cadres would become available when it became clearer that the Lien Minh enjoyed support from the top and that there would be political benefits, even if not financial ones, for those who work in the organization. On the other hand some paid cadre would always be needed, and we were wondering if the time had not come to get some financing from private individuals, for instance from wealthy Vietnamese businessmen. Thieu said this was another reason for letting the organization grow naturally. If people saw that the Lien Minh was something solid, then they would gladly contribute money to it. He realized that this was an important problem, that private financing must be enlisted, and he intended to look into it.
- Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 13 VIET S. Secret; Exdis. No receipt time is indicated.↩