47. Memorandum From the President's Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1
- Covert Support for the Lien Minh (National Alliance for Social Revolution)
On 25 March 1969, Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker briefed the 303 Committee on the present status of President Thieu's efforts to build a broad coalition of forces into a political structure, the Lien Minh, which will be capable of competing successfully with the communist political machinery following a peace settlement.2
President Thieu first discussed his Lien Minh concept with Ambassador Bunker in the early part of 1968. Subsequently, in 303 Committee discussions, it was agreed that this was the most potentially promising effort seen thus far in South Vietnam to develop a broadly based political structure with mass appeal and support. Ambassador Bunker was authorized to provide [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] in covert CIA funds to President Thieu to give impetus to the effort. This amount was passed directly to President Thieu in increments during the period August 1968–March 1969.[Page 162]
President Thieu has moved slowly and cautiously but some progress has been made. Lien Minh is established and operating in Saigon/Cholon and running community projects in 9 of the 11 districts; some neighborhood money has been raised; 20 provincial committees have been formed and selection and training of provincial cadres is under way. Theoretically, its membership comprises some 40 or more groups, the principal ones being the National Salvation Front (NSF), Free Democratic Forces (FDF), and CVT, South Vietnam's largest labor federation, but not many cadres.
President Thieu, in his conversation with Ambassador Bunker last week, explained that he had been moving cautiously behind the scenes and not openly putting his full weight behind the Lien Minh as the time was not right.3 Now that there is a rapidly growing awareness among the people and their leaders that a peace settlement is coming and that the fight against the communists will shift to the political field he is ready to move.
President Thieu is concentrating on development of middle-level working cadres and programs that will interest the masses and inspire them with hope. There are some 5,000 cadres now in Lien Minh in trade unions, some farmer groups, and in a few political, religious and other organizations. He plans to coalesce and expand these forces initially to something on the order of 16,000 and eventually to a 50,000 cadre organization. He will need money, training schools, indoctrination programs, and a range of activities to do this.
President Thieu has already begun talking with individual political leaders and plans to convene a national convention or “seminar” in April at which he expects to be elected leader of the new movement.
Ambassador Bunker strongly recommended that he be authorized to pass additional covert funds to President Thieu in the amount of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] in increments during the next six months to support further development of the Lien Minh during this crucial period. He estimates the risks of disclosure are slight since President Thieu receives the funds directly. He also estimates that this contribution will be initially about 50% of the support of the Lien Minh, but as its financial base broadens the U.S. contribution will become proportionately less.
The 303 Committee endorsed Ambassador Bunker's recommendation on the understanding that he will provide monthly progress reports on Lien Minh developments and any indications of increased risk of exposure of U.S. support.[Page 163]
I recommend that you approve the 303 Committee's endorsement of Ambassador Bunker's recommendation and authorize the passage of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] in covert funds to President Thieu in increments during the ensuing six months.4
- Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 301, NSC Files, 303 Committee, 1969–1970. Secret; Eyes Only. Sent for action. Initialed by Kissinger on March 29.↩
- This memorandum essentially repeats Bunker's briefing of the 303 Committee on March 25. In addition the 303 Committee was told at the meeting that on March 20 the President agreed that a CIA paramilitary operation in Cambodia against North Vietnamese regulars “would not be worth the expense.” The Committee was also informed that the President authorized monitoring possible diplomatic and covert ways to reduce arms traffic from Cambodia to South Vietnam. (Minutes of 303 Committee, March 25; Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, 303/40 Committee Meetings, 2/16/69–1/20/70)↩
- As reported in a March 21 memorandum of conversation between Thieu, Bunker, and Berger at the Embassy in Saigon. It is attached to the minutes of the March 25 303 Committee. (Ibid.)↩
- Nixon initialed the approve option.↩