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Paul Rigby

'Arrogant' CIA Disobeys Orders in Viet Nam by Richard Starnes, Washington Daily News, October 2, 1963

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The important point to this is not who was responsible for the overthrow

of Diem, but why.

I disagree with the first half; couldn't agree more that "why" is hugely important.

JFK fingered Harriman. I see no reason to dispute his recorded assessment of the

power behind the coup.

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Boffo thread Paul, Cliff, John.

Thank you for keeping it going.

Debra, power point presentation was truly fascinating. I wish I could have heard the narrative.

Do any of you know if President Kennedy, who clearly stated on tape that Harriman was pro-coup thereby at odds with JFK's own policy and directives, had the opportunity to react to Harriman's treachery, either officially or unofficially?

I realize he didn't have much time to do so between the two coups: Diem's and his own.

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JFK fingered Harriman. I see no reason to dispute his recorded assessment of the

power behind the coup.

Cliff,

OK, let's assume for the moment - I'm every bit as sceptical of the audio record of the period as I am of the film versions of the assassination, but I'll let that pass for the sake of discussion - that Harriman was in favour of the coup. Two objections arise immediately: Was Harriman intent on Diem's removal for the same reasons as the CIA? And, no, Kennedy doesn't characterise Harriman as "the power behind the coup." He's merely one name on a list.

That list is very odd: It comprises all the key figures in favour of the proposed opening to China, a move long urged on Kennedy by the British political establishment in general, and the Labour Party in particular. How did the violent overthrow of Diem and his regime sit with that objective? It makes no sense at all, not least in the absence of any obvious figure of comparable stature to replace Diem, and thus to serve as a focus for stability and negotiation.

A final question occurs - who finances the National Security Archive?

Paul

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He has the best opportunity which there has ever been to do these things. But he can only do them if, in his foreign policy, he ceases to act on the principles of power-politics and the advice of the Central Intelligence Agency, and if, instead, he acts on the principles which have brought him such unparalleled success in home affairs.

Yours, &c.,

Philip Noel-Baker,

House of Commons, July 16.

Noel-Baker's view on who - or rather, what - was running US foreign policy in 1965 was hardly unique. Here's a similar point of view from the same year:

Ronald Segal, “FBI, KKK, CIA,” New Statesman, 3 September 1965, p.324:

Review of 3 books:

1) Fred Cook. The FBI Nobody Knows (Cape, 30s);

2) William Randel. The Ku Klux Klan (Hamish Hamilton, 30s);

3) Wise & Ross. The Invisible Government (Cape, 30s)

Writing of Wise & Ross’ book, Segal observes: “America, indeed, is dangerously near conducting international relations through a secret police all but completely independent of elected authority.”

And another observer, Senator Morse, on the same theme:

AP, “Morse Asks Curb on CIA,” New York Times, (Western Ed.), Tuesday, 19 February 1963, p.5:

“No agency should exercise police state powers in this democracy, and the CIA exercises just such powers, “ Mr. Morse told his colleagues.

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JFK fingered Harriman. I see no reason to dispute his recorded assessment of the

power behind the coup.

Cliff,

OK, let's assume for the moment - I'm every bit as sceptical of the audio record of the period as I am of the film versions of the assassination, but I'll let that pass for the sake of discussion - that Harriman was in favour of the coup. Two objections arise immediately: Was Harriman intent on Diem's removal for the same reasons as the CIA?

I'd speculate that there was little American support for the secret Diem-Ho

talks, and none of the U.S. players were interested in a Commie-favored

rapprochement between North and South Vietnam.

I'd imagine W. Averell Harriman could muster support within CIA

any old time he pleased.

And, no, Kennedy doesn't characterise Harriman as "the power behind the coup." He's merely one name on a list.

As the head of the Harriman-Bush Crime Family, W. Averell Harriman was

never "merely one name on a list."

JFK used the phrase "led by Harriman." You think Harriman and Hilsman were equals?

As per my sig line, the competing conspiracies at play in November 1963 were:

The Harriman-Bush Crime Family.

The Murchison Crime Family.

The Sicilian-American Outfit crime families.

The Corsican Mafia.

The business at hand (I would speculate): heroin, it's production and distribution.

The four entities above co-operated and competed and always sought

a bigger role in the production and international distribution of heroin.

In 1963 the poppy fields of the Golden Triangle were prized, but perhaps

not so nearly prized as the Havana-to-Florida smuggling funnel lost when

Castro took power in Cuba.

That list is very odd: It comprises all the key figures in favour of the proposed opening to China, a move long urged on Kennedy by the British political establishment in general, and the Labour Party in particular. How did the violent overthrow of Diem and his regime sit with that objective?

Commies were bad for the heroin trade. Harriman et al didn't want to face a situation

where 10 years down the road they'd would have to push for "the proposed opening

to Vietnam."

Such an eventuality occurred 3-4 decades later, instead.

It makes no sense at all, not least in the absence of any obvious figure of comparable stature to replace Diem, and thus to serve as a focus for stability and negotiation.

I think they feared Ho's hegemonic control of the Golden Triangle, most

of all. After all, Castro deprived them of the Havana-to-Florida smuggling

enterprises, why would they expect a smuggling-friendly disposition from Ho?

A final question occurs - who finances the National Security Archive?

Paul

Carnegie Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

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A final question occurs - who finances the National Security Archive?

Paul

Cliff: Carnegie Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

Feared as much.

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George T. Altman, “Letters: JFK’s assassination and the war,” The Nation, 21 June 1975, p.738:

Reports urging re-examination of the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy have begun to stir throughout the land. These are no longer isolated situations of dissatisfaction with findings that lack the appearance of reason. They show now careful study and determination. Moreover, they suggest connections that go far beyond the assassination of one President of the United States…

Suspecting the existence of such broad connections I wondered if they might include the so-called coup in Vietnam just three weeks before the assassination. Accordingly I went to Europe shortly after the assassination to make a probe of the coup. My particular purpose was to question Madame Nhu, widow of Ngo Dinh Nhu, one of the two leaders struck down in the coup. The other was his brother, Ngo Dinh Diem, the President of South Vietnam. Madame Nhu was active in the government there herself; after the coup she escaped to Rome.

I was able to arrange a meeting with her at the Vatican. I questioned her closely, through her son, on the events which preceded the coup, seeking especially to learn whether, in her opinion, Mr. Kennedy had supported it.

Madame Nhu informed me that, contrary to reports published here, the two brothers had sought to negotiate an end to the conflict, and that it was to prevent this that the coup was carried out. She declared emphatically that Mr. Kennedy had activated the brothers in this effort to achieve peace; he had no part in fomenting the coup.

In my opinion, the war, the coup and the Kennedy assassination are closely linked. Thus the necessity of covering up the assassination of a President with the insanely empty notion that no one but the reported assassin had any part in it. Thus also the long history of assassination of foreign leaders, for a single purpose, the maintenance of armed conflict – and always on the same side, the support of large industry and wealth.

And if a coup in Vietnam, why not another in this country, for the same purpose? Our government has shown itself equal to the task.

More on the Diem-Nhu negotiations with Hanoi in the months preceding the coup of 1 November.

First up, veteran CIA water-carrier, Joe Alsop. Note the ever so subtle attempt to equate negotiating with Hanoi with insanity; and the recourse to an old Cold War stand by of the American foreign policy elite, “a secret French intrigue”:

Joe Alsop, “Matter of Fact: Humpty Dumpty in Viet-Nam,” Washington Post, 15 May 1964, p.A23:

“…the unbalanced Nhu had begun negotiations for a deal with the North Vietnamese Communists in the last months before his death. These negotiations, strongly promoted by a secret French intrigue, had in turn caused the Communists to slacken their military pressure on Diem and Nhu.”

Next up, Madame Nhu, as filtered first through right-wing - of the Atlanticist, not Gaullist variety, I suspect - French journalist, Lucien Bodard, & published in the pages of Le Nouveau Candide; and then a figure described only as “Special to the New York Times”:

“Mrs. Nhu Now Defends Reds as ‘Nationalists,’” NYT, 19 July 1966, p.5:

“In the interview, Mrs. Nhu says that it was at her suggestion that her husband was having secret contacts with representatives of North Vietnam and that he was on the point of signing a peace treaty when the Americans, frightened, deliberately launched a coup d’etat and had the brothers murdered.”

Edited by Paul Rigby

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I'd speculate that there was little American support for the secret Diem-Ho talks, and none of the U.S. players were interested in a Commie-favored rapprochement between North and South Vietnam.

Cliff,

I readily concede that contemporaneous public references to Kennedy-instigated moves for a Laotian-style peace deal in Vietnam are hard to find, but they do exist. Here's two examples:

Wilfrid Burchett. The Furtive War: The United States in Vietnam and Laos (NY: International Publishers Co. Inc., 1963), p.216:

"..by April 1963 Washington was already making soundings - either directly or through British, French, Indian and other channels - for the kind of formula under which an "honorable" withdrawal could be negotiated. But as in Laos, Washington was seeking a formula which would provide gains through diplomacy or intrigue that could not be obtained on the battlefield. Thus the favorite formula being offered by Washington's agents in April 1963 was a form of "neutralization" of South Vietnam which would admit some NLF elements into a Diemist-type regime in the South (although without Diem himself), in exchange for "neutralization" of the North, guaranteed by the presence of some Diemists in the government of North Vietnam. Other variants, always including "neutralization" of the North, envision a coalition government in the South formed by Diemist elements on the Right, some members of the NLF on the Left, and some liberal Vietnamese exiles in Paris to provide the neutralist "filling". Again, Diem himself is to be excluded, as all but the most die-hard US diplomats agree he is impossible."

And then there's a fleeting reference in a piece by Dick Starnes:

New York World-Telegram & Sun, 6 September 1963, p.25:

Stuck With Diem

The decision has been made (for the administration, and not by it) to endure the lunacies of the ruling mandarins of South Viet Nam for yet a little longer.

The decision was imposed by events, and by the failure of American policy makers to provide themselves with “options.” This is a word dearly loved by all decision makers, from quarterbacks to chiefs of state. You pass or run, you plow through the middle, or you try to spin through the weak side of the line. But try you always to leave yourself a choice.

Sadly, there are no options available to President Kennedy in dealing with the can of night crawlers that represents American policy in Southeast Asia. With remarkably little bluster, he and his advisers concluded that we’d have to sing along with President Ngo Dinh Diem and his vast, imposing and formidable clan.

There was nothing else to be done in the face of the gloomy non-choice that was available: Support Diem, or watch South Viet Nam sucked into the same vortex that has all but swallowed Laos.

So the mean, cruel little war will continue a while longer. The heartbreaking assassination of American military personnel will continue, never at a rate to alarm the United States into rash countermeasures, but always with an inexorable quality of glacial inevitability.

It is in the nature of guerilla war that the skill and courage of our troops seldom can be brought into play. The real battle must be fought around the charcoal fires in the villages; when the Viet Cong cadres compare their own legendary Ho Chi Minh with Diem, who too often is known only through the works of minor political oppressors who teach loyalty and obedience at the fat end of a stick.

Our decision to try to keep the Saigon alliance stuck together with butcher twine and stickum has nothing to commend itself as a long-term investment. Clearly the same tensions that very nearly shook it to pieces in this most recent crisis are still present, and will again make themselves felt. Will the next upheaval find our policy makers any better equipped? In the period of grace we have purchased at the price of humiliation all over Asia, can we devise options that will somehow save us in the future?

If we could create a Vietnamese incarnation of the late Ramon Magsaysay, the face of Southeast Asia would be much prettier to Western eyes. There is, alas, no such figure remotely in view. We must concede that our present three-of-a-kind, Diem, brother Ngo Dinh Nhu, and sister-in-law Mrs. Nhu, is the best hand we’re likely to hold in the bloody game for Viet Nam.

We can do the same thing any poker player with a weak hand will do – if he can afford it. He’ll try to make it so expensive for the opposition that they’ll quit. Here, however, the analogy coughs and dies. Short of big war, we can’t really mortally wound the Viet Cong. Ho knows this, and he knows better than many American experts just how weak we are in Saigon.

Thus we cannot expect the ancient arts of the poker player to win. We may try the bluff, we may try to raise the ante enough to chase out the ribbon clerks, but when we’re called, we’ll lose.

So now in Washington the hunt for a long-term option continues. Will it turn out to be the same, thinly disguised clobbering that we caught when we had to accept the Laotian troika? In Washington today this species of dismal speculation is unthinkable. But, I venture to say, it is being thought about nevertheless. It’s an attractive prospect in many ways. It offers a face-saver, and an end to the war we can’t win. And, if need be, we can always fight like hell on the beaches of Australia.

And you're very right when you observed "Commies were bad for the heroin trade."

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Context?

The full tape transcript?

Is it enough there to make an objective judgement?

It strikes me as a brief summary statement for the record as of that time, and as such, necessarily with the tone it has. Note that Kennedy merely uses titles and short ID's. That seems to indicate it is part of a developing situation rather something conclusive for public consumption. Rather a record, or a speculative summary based on what he knew at that time. A 'work in progress'.

http://tapes.millercenter.virginia.edu/cli...nam_memoir.html

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Wilfrid Burchett. The Furtive War: The United States in Vietnam and Laos (NY: International Publishers Co. Inc., 1963), p.216:

"..by April 1963 Washington was already making soundings - either directly or through British, French, Indian and other channels - for the kind of formula under which an "honorable" withdrawal could be negotiated. But as in Laos, Washington was seeking a formula which would provide gains through diplomacy or intrigue that could not be obtained on the battlefield. Thus the favorite formula being offered by Washington's agents in April 1963 was a form of "neutralization" of South Vietnam which would admit some NLF elements into a Diemist-type regime in the South (although without Diem himself), in exchange for "neutralization" of the North, guaranteed by the presence of some Diemists in the government of North Vietnam. Other variants, always including "neutralization" of the North, envision a coalition government in the South formed by Diemist elements on the Right, some members of the NLF on the Left, and some liberal Vietnamese exiles in Paris to provide the neutralist "filling". Again, Diem himself is to be excluded, as all but the most die-hard US diplomats agree he is impossible."

What was Hanoi's attitude to the prospect of a negotiated settlement? Ho Chi Minh’s strategy in the years preceding Diem’s overthrow was encapsulated in his “Descending Spiral Theory.” Ho believed that a resumption of guerilla warfare in the South would inevitably issue in a full-scale US invasion. He therefore did everything he could to avoid its recrudescence.(1) The public consistency of Ho’s position in favour of a negotiated settlement throughout 1962 was reflected in three interviews he gave in March, July, and December to, respectively, a British Daily Express journalist, Bernard Fall, and Jules Roy. As Fall wrote: “It was obvious to all three observers that the DRVN had backed off from outright conquest of South Viet Nam and was veering toward a negotiated solution embodying the existence of a neutral South Vietnamese state that would not be reunited with the North for a long time to come.”(3)

(1)Wayne H. Nielsen, “The Second Indo-China War and the American Press,” The Minority of One, October 1964, p. 15.

(2)Bernard Fall. The Two Vietnams: A Political and Military Analysis (London: Pall Mall Press, 1963), p. 199.

(3)Ibid. The resultant articles appeared in the Daily Express, 28 March 1962; The Saturday Evening Post, 24 November 1962; and L’Express, 10 January 1963. Fall’s interview with Ho appeared in “A Talk with Ho Chi Minh,” The New Republic, 12 October 1963, pp. 19-22. In The Making of a Quagmire, David Halberstam offers a paragraph on Fall’s Ho interview without once mentioning the minor fact that Ho was urging a peaceful settlement to the war. Instead, Halberstam confined himself to portraying Pham Van Dong as patronising Diem (Quagmire, p. 70).

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How did the violent overthrow of Diem and his regime sit with that objective? It makes no sense at all, not least in the absence of any obvious figure of comparable stature to replace Diem, and thus to serve as a focus for stability and negotiation.

The CIA’s abandonment of not merely Diem and family, but the entire concept of a political strong-man in Saigon, was formally announced – more accurately, retrospectively acknowledged - by none other than Edward Lansdale in the Foreign Affairs edition of October 1964. America’s repeated attempts at “engineering a great patriotic cause led by some universally loved Vietnamese of American selection,” a process in which no US official had been more central than Landsdale himself, were now dismissed as a “puerile romance” which “should not be attempted in real life.” The CIA terminated both Diem and the concept he represented for a very good reason: There was to be no future civilian-political figure in the South with whom the North could cut a peace deal. In Diem’s place, and that of a motley succession of older military men and discredited politicians, were to stand the Agency-formed “Young Turks,” who were eventually brought to power, in the face of considerable resistance from within the US foreign policy elite, in the years to follow.

There is every reason to believe Lansdale had been guilty of a great deal more than mere advocacy of the “Young Turks” strategy during the Kennedy years. According to John Pilger, the creation and use of “Force X,” which “infiltrated” the Viet Cong and then undertook “atrocities that would then be blamed on the insurgency” was “pioneered by…Colonel Edward Lansdale.”

(1) Bernard B. Fall, “The Second Indochina War,” International Affairs, January 1965, (Vol 41, No 1), p. 70. Fall comments of Lansdale’s condemnation “But this was precisely what was done.”

(2) John Pilger, “Phoney war,” The Guardian, 19 October 1999, p. 18.

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Wilfrid Burchett. The Furtive War: The United States in Vietnam and Laos (NY: International Publishers Co. Inc., 1963), p.216:

"..by April 1963 Washington was already making soundings - either directly or through British, French, Indian and other channels - for the kind of formula under which an "honorable" withdrawal could be negotiated. But as in Laos, Washington was seeking a formula which would provide gains through diplomacy or intrigue that could not be obtained on the battlefield. Thus the favorite formula being offered by Washington's agents in April 1963 was a form of "neutralization" of South Vietnam which would admit some NLF elements into a Diemist-type regime in the South (although without Diem himself), in exchange for "neutralization" of the North, guaranteed by the presence of some Diemists in the government of North Vietnam. Other variants, always including "neutralization" of the North, envision a coalition government in the South formed by Diemist elements on the Right, some members of the NLF on the Left, and some liberal Vietnamese exiles in Paris to provide the neutralist "filling". Again, Diem himself is to be excluded, as all but the most die-hard US diplomats agree he is impossible."

According to Mieczyslaw Maneli, the Polish diplomat at the heart of the hitherto most publicized diplomatic attempt to bring peace to Vietnam, Saigon saw a profound change in atmosphere at precisely the time Kennedy’s "soundings" began:

“In April and May of 1963 the political climate in Saigon underwent a drastic change. The conflict between Diem-Nhu and various United States agencies grew. In my political reports…I pointed out that in Saigon one could detect a conflict in the Kennedy administration. This was also revealed in the American press.”

Mieczyslaw Maneli. The War of the Vanquished (Harper & Row, 1971), p.123.

Elsewhere, Maneli notes, in passing, that one consequence of the Buddhist revolt - in which he "possibly" saw the CIA's hand, and reported home to that effect at the time (p.126), but not the ambassador's (Nolting's) - was to delay Nhu's participation in peace negotiations (pp.126-7).

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Paul,

According to these documents, Harriman was not only pro-coup as

of 8/28/63, but he was lined up against the anti-coup US military, the

CIA, and Bobby Kennedy -- Harriman still got his way.

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB101/vn07.pdf

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB101/vn19.pdf

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB101/

Cliff,

Again, many thanks for the apposite links.

On the matter of Harriman’s attitude to Diem’s government.

I would be more persuaded by a detailed account, preferably buttressed by contemporaneous sources, explaining the alleged transformation of Harriman’s view in the course of the summer of 1963. As matters stand, we find utterly conflicting evidence and, to the best of my limited knowledge, no remotely adequate account of why the man who negotiated peace for Laos suddenly turned hawk over Vietnam.

Moreover, it is only on Vietnam, and Vietnam alone, we are invited to believe, that Harriman found himself allied to the CIA, an organisation that loathed his long-since modified views on Russia, his work on the test ban treaty, and his support for an opening to mainland China; and, let us not forget, had actively sought to sabotage the Geneva settlement on Laos. You see the full oddity of what we are routinely invited to believe.

Paul,

Lots of employees don't like their bosses. Allen Dulles was a Harriman hired hand.

Around the Harriman household in the autumn of 1963, I'd speculate, toilet paper was

called "NSAM 263."

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Around the Harriman household in the autumn of 1963, I'd speculate, toilet paper was called "NSAM 263."

As a dedicated anti-Harrimanite, Cliff, have you read this?

Andrei Navrozov. The Gingerbread Race: A Life in the Closing World Once Called Free (London: Picador, 1993) [iSBN 0330376368]

Try p.332 for a very good joke - one made by Raymond Seitz, no less - about the number 322!

Paul

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Around the Harriman household in the autumn of 1963, I'd speculate, toilet paper was called "NSAM 263."

As a dedicated anti-Harrimanite, Cliff, have you read this?

Anti-Harrimanite! Love it...with the caveat that I think Averell was a big loser

on 11/22/63, and had had strong second-thoughts about a plot he'd previously

approved.

Andrei Navrozov. The Gingerbread Race: A Life in the Closing World Once Called Free (London: Picador, 1993) [iSBN 0330376368]

Try p.332 for a very good joke - one made by Raymond Seitz, no less - about the number 322!

Paul

A Skull & Bones thang, no doubt...

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