1964-1968, Volume V, Vietnam 1967|
Released by the Office of the Historian
117. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union/1/
117. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union/1/
Washington, March 24, 1967, 6:02 p.m.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER. Top Secret; Priority; Nodis; Sunflower Plus. Drafted and approved by Bundy.
162643. State 143101./2/ In Bundy/Dobrynin conversation on evening March 23, following discussion reported Exdis septel concerning Hanoi motives in revealing President/Ho letters and anticipated Hanoi negative reply on U Thant proposal, discussion turned to lengthy review of Moscow exchanges and brief references to December dealings through Poles. Following were highlights:
/2/Telegram 143101 to Moscow, February 24, summarized a conversation between Rusk and Dobrynin on February 23. During the talk, Dobrynin implied that the U.S. Government was interested solely in a military resolution of the Vietnam conflict since it had refused to halt the bombing during the Marigold exercise the previous December and since it did not accept a Hanoi-proposed 7-day truce during the Tet holiday. Rusk disagreed and pointed out that the "real problem" was that if the other side stepped up its military activities, then "it was inevitable" that the U.S. Government would do so. Without specific guarantees, a bombing halt could not be enacted. (Ibid.)
1. Dobrynin stuck throughout to same basic line as in reftel, that Hanoi simply would not talk unless we stop the bombing. He repeated argumentation that Hanoi could not possibly accept our insistence on reciprocal action without accepting whole US view of nature of conflict. Bundy responded that Soviets well knew practical reasons why we could not stop bombing and allow Hanoi to pour in additional divisions and equipment.
2. Conversation then got onto U Thant proposal, as to which Dobrynin had already indicated that Hanoi response would be negative./3/ Bundy remarked that we had supposed Hanoi would find difficulty in working out any major cessation of hostilities, although we ourselves had done our best to make constructive response to SYG.
/3/The Department suspended contacts with the DRV Embassy in Moscow while the U Thant initiative unfolded. (Telegram 157597 to Moscow, March 17; ibid.) When Akalovsky talked to Hoang Man'Tu on March 21, Hoang Man'Tu told him: "At present, U.S. carrying out every day new steps of grave escalation of aggressive war against people of NVN. At same time, U.S. is mounting a game of contacts with DRV reps in order to deceive world public opinion and to cover its criminal acts of war. In view of this, DRV Ambassador in Moscow cannot receive U.S. Ambassador." (Telegram 4020 from Moscow, March 21; ibid.)
3. Bundy then said that Hanoi revelation of letters continued to puzzle us very much, as we had formed clear impression that if Hanoi ever wished to move seriously it would do so in some secret and private manner. Hence we were genuinely distressed that Hanoi had damaged, if not destroyed, privacy of Moscow channel./4/ Dobrynin did not respond directly, and did not take possible occasion to indicate any hope Moscow channel could be resumed. (Neither he nor Bundy referred to subsequent NVN refusal to accept contact with Thompson.)
/4/On March 21 the North Vietnamese published the February exchange of letters between President Johnson and Ho Chi Minh; see Documents 32 and 82. INR Intelligence Note 231, March 22, concluded that Hanoi released the notes due to the perceived intensification brought about by the Guam conference, pressure from Peking, and a desire to shore up its own morale. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXVIII) In a March 22 memorandum to the President, Roche suggested the following explanation: "I suspect Ho (a complete realist) is in favor of negotiations, found himself confronted by a powerful opposition in the Party, endorsed the opposition's view in order to consolidate his organizational strength, will now move (using the old salami tactic) to neutralize his enemies within the Party, and may write you another letter." (Ibid., Name File, Roche Memos)
4. Bundy then went on to argue, along lines Secretary had followed in reftel, that if positions were difficult to reconcile on stopping the bombing, and if cessation of hostilities presented similar difficulties, perhaps best way to proceed would be to go back to our message of January 20 in Moscow, offering to talk on full range of topics related to final settlement and in effect to see "where we would come out." Bundy noted that Hanoi had never responded to our January 20 message, and that this had been one of major negative factors, together with lack of any response to President's letter, that had led us to go ahead with resumption on February 13. He stressed that discussion of January 20 topics need not be described as "talks" but could simply be exploratory "non-conversations." If we were able to arrive at a clear picture of an agreed final settlement, question of more formal talks and even of stopping the bombing might take on different hue. Dobrynin obviously understood the point, but did not respond in any hopeful way.
5. Bundy then remarked that if Hanoi were so insistent that we stop the bombing before any talks could take place, it was hard to suppose that there could have been any substance to what the Poles told us in December about a willingness to meet in Warsaw. Dobrynin shrugged this off with the perhaps revealing remark that Poles had given Soviets an entirely different picture than the one we had presented of who had taken the initiative for the Warsaw contacts and by implication the statement of US position. The inescapable implication was that Poles had represented to Soviets that USG had initiated Lewandowski channel and that USG had either drafted or endorsed Lewandowski formulation and urged that it be presented to Hanoi. Bundy merely said Soviets knew facts as we clearly understood them. In this exchange, Dobrynin returned to theme that our bombing on December 2 and 4 had thrown Rapacki off, and that bombing of December 13-14 had caused clear Hanoi rejection of Warsaw meeting. Bundy did not attempt to go back over this familiar ground.
6. In commenting on our February 13 resumption, Dobrynin did complain that we had not given additional time for Hanoi response. Bundy responded that Hanoi had given no response whatever to our whole series of proposals, and Dobrynin did not really press the argument, although he did say that our resumption had given impression in Moscow that USG or some elements in it, were impatient and anxious to press forward with military pressures.
7. Dobrynin expressed hope that there would not be "dramatic developments" in USG actions against NVN. Bundy responded that there would undoubtedly be continuing developments, although he did not know whether they could be called "dramatic." Dobrynin specifically inquired on significance of Guam meeting. Bundy responded that President had wished to meet with SVN leaders and to introduce new team, and to have customary periodic review of all elements in situation. No major decisions had been anticipated or taken. Dobrynin's inquiries on these matters did not appear to have special note of urgency or alarm.
8. Conversation also included brief exchange on situation in China. Bundy noted that there now appeared to be at least temporary settling down in cultural revolution, perhaps related to need to concentrate on planting season. Dobrynin expressed strong agreement that latter was key factor, and stated judgment that resumption of struggle highly likely in view of deep-seated views held by Mao personally.
9. Comment. General Dobrynin mood seemed little if any changed from that evidenced in his February 23 conversation with Secretary (reftel). He seemed almost resigned to present state of affairs and present Hanoi position. His recriminations and his references to our military actions were along familiar lines and moderate in tone. While holding out no hope that Hanoi might in fact pick up our January 20 avenue, his prediction of resumed struggle in China might conceivably suggest Moscow is lying low in case Chinese developments should give them another chance to exert influence.
118. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/
Saigon, March 25, 1967, 1137Z.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXVIII. Secret; Exdis. Received at 8:33 a.m. Rostow wrote on the cable: "Herewith the latest on Ky's election plans in relation to Thieu" and sent it to the President, who was at Camp David March 25-27. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary)
21308. 1. Prime Minister Ky spoke to me very frankly March 25 about the choice of a military candidate for President. Nothing he said could be taken to mean that the decision between Thieu and himself has already been made. However, his remarks suggested that he may be thinking seriously about stepping aside in favor of Thieu.
2. He began by saying that the armed forces will not choose a candidate. "The situation is very simple," he said, "if Thieu decides to run, I will support him. He is senior and it is up to him to have the first chance at it. If he decides not to run, then I will run."
3. I asked him what Thieu was thinking, and he said Thieu was "undecided." I asked how much time there was in which to make up his mind, and he said, "Not more than two weeks."
4. I congratulated Ky on his attitude, which I thought was both correct and intelligent. It would be a disaster if there was to be a conflict between him and Thieu, and it was a fine thing for him to take such a broad minded attitude. He was young; He could wait. In any case, there are many other things which he could do besides being President.
119. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Komer) to President Johnson/1/
Washington, March 25, 1967.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Robert Komer, White House Chronological, 1 January-1 May 1967. Secret.
I decided to go right down to Saigon after Guam, to show that the new team was in action, to work out an optimum relationship with Westy, and to deal with other pressing business. It was my seventh trip in less than a year. I believe that the following matters are worth reporting to you; by now I have sufficiently intimate ties with all senior US and most senior GVN personalities that they are eager to confide in me.
I. The Real Impact of Guam. Leaving aside the press problem, Guam once again helped significantly to move forward the war. As at Honolulu and Manila,/2/ bidding the GVN to the conference table forced them to put best foot forward. Thus Guam, for example, expedited GVN "ratification of the Constitution." Far few people realize the impact such conferences have along these lines.
/2/Conferences held in February and October 1966.
As for the GVN/US reports to you at Guam, I don't care how many press wizards call me a rosy optimist, but I believe that Ky/Thieu's air of confidence more accurately reflects the real pace of events than Westy's more prudent views.
I had long talks with key GVN Ministers Thang, Vien, and Hanh at Guam./3/ We moved several items forward, especially on pacification. I played up economic facts and figures for the press as you requested, and even got a page 1 story in Tuesday's NY Times./4/
/3/Nguyen Duc Thang, Minister for Revolutionary Development; Cao Van Vien, Minister of National Security, and Nguyen Huu Hanh, Minister of Economy and Finance.
/4/See The New York Times, March 21, 1967.
II. Making Pacification Move. To lose no time in getting the show on the road, I devoted top priority to working out my relationship with Westy. I am pleased to report that I think we have reached a good, workable meeting of minds. Westy and I can--and will--work together. He says he will use me as a manager to supervise all civil/military aspects of pacification--not just as an adviser.
I have already discussed the proposed arrangements briefly with Ellsworth Bunker, who concurs. He also expects me to work closely with him, which I will gladly do. Walt and I will clear the new scheme with Rusk and McNamara in the form of a NSAM and submit it to you soonest for final decision. I believe that we should act promptly to forestall further press speculation.
III. Personnel for the Bunker Team. Ellsworth deserves the strongest team we can field. Rostow says you've promised Ellsworth anyone he wants, and I'll now produce the names:
A. A replacement for Roy Wehrle/5/ on the economic side is the most critical need. Gaud, Lodge, Porter, in fact everyone most strongly proposes my own economic deputy Chuck Cooper; he's brilliant, highly knowledgeable, action-oriented, an ideal choice. Bunker concurs subject to meeting him. I've twisted his arm, and he'll come provided he can bring his wife and infant. Since infants stay with their mothers full-time, this would not violate the no-children principle. There is no substitute for Cooper, except one guy at Yale who has five kids he won't leave.
/5/Economic officer at the Embassy in Saigon.
B. Bunker and I believe Lansdale should stay at least through the election, despite the fact that Lodge advises getting rid of him. Not least, the press would have a field day if Lansdale quit.
C. Zorthian should stay on a few months for a smooth transition, but I'm coming around to Len Marks' view that he's a mixed blessing. Ellsworth and I have a top-notch eventual successor in mind.
D. Abrams will be a great addition. However, Westy seems clearly nervous that Abrams is being sent out as his eventual replacement. Unless this is really the case, a little reassuring LBJ message for Westy would be helpful.
Sorting out my role vis-à-vis Abrams as Westy's two deputies will be a problem, but Westy and I think it a manageable one. Westy wants me to supervise pacification--military as well as civilian--while Abrams focusses primarily on revamping the Vietnamese forces. This makes good sense. Lodge says that you told him Abrams would "run the military side of pacification," but McNamara and Rostow say he is rather to be a general deputy. I hope the latter is indeed the case, because the whole rationale for putting me under Westy to run pacification is to unify civil/military management for better results./6/ And if I don't know more about how to get pacification rolling than anyone else on the new team, I'll eat that Stetson you owe me.
/6/Komer and Westmoreland met in Saigon during late March to work out organizational guidelines for CORDS. Komer would report directly to the MACV Commander and be in sole charge of pacification under the "single manager" concept. General Creighton W. Abrams would have the task of invigorating the ARVN. Their agreement is contained in Komer's memorandum to McNamara, March 29; Washington National Records Center, RG 330, McNamara Vietnam Files: FRC 77-0075, Vietnam (March and April 1967). Komer discussed the issues involved in the shifting of pacification responsibility in a March 27 memorandum to the President, to which was attached a draft NSAM. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Robert Komer, Memos to the President, January-May 1967) This draft NSAM later became NSAM No. 362, May 9, Document 167.
I have much else to report, but will hold off in order to get the above to you pronto. As I hope McNamara and Rostow told you at Guam, I will cheerfully do my best to help bring home the bacon in any capacity you want. But my ability to produce--and you know I can--will inevitably depend on my being cast in a role where I can operate most effectively. If you approve the new arrangements, I will take off in two weeks--as the first of the new team to show up on the job./7/
/7/In telegram 20988 from Saigon, March 22, Lodge laid out a scenario for the change-over of Embassy staff. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXVIII) In telegram 21226 from Saigon, March 25, Lodge wrote: "MACV's success (which means the success of the United States and all of us) will, therefore, willy-nilly, be judged not so much on the brilliant performance of the U.S. troops as on its success in getting ARVN, RF and PF quickly to function as a first-class counter-terror, counter-guerrilla force." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S)
R. W. Komer/8/
/8/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
120. Telegram From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson at Camp David/1/
Washington, March 27, 1967, 2120Z.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXVIII, Cables. Secret; Exdis. The President was at Camp David March 25-27; he left there at 5:30 p.m. on March 27 and returned to the White House at 6:10 p.m. (Ibid., President's Daily Dairy)
CAP 67207. For the President from Walt Rostow. This is how Thieu and Ky got the Constitution through the Directorate on the last round. The dates are now set, as you can see. And the last line is worth a lot./2/
/2/Following is the text of telegram 21516 from Saigon, March 27.
On Sunday evening,/3/ I became anxious because of reports that the Directorate was very dissatisfied with the Constitution. Accordingly, I decided to see General Thieu on Monday (today). As I have previously reported, I had a talk with General Ky about it on Saturday.
Today, a number of tentative appointments which I had with Thieu did not materialize because the Directorate was in continuous session. Finally, I got in to see him at 4:45 p.m. and told him of my anxiety because of the reports which I had heard that the Generals were against the Constitution.
Thieu said that they had indeed been against the Constitution, and that when they recessed for lunch, he had thought that they might not accept it. But he said lunch, plus "some music and some drink" plus a great deal of very hard reasoning by Thieu and Ky finally brought them around. They had approved the Constitution, and also approved the date of September 1 for election of the President and the Senate and the date of October 1 for the election for the members of the lower house. Promulgation is to be on Saturday, April 1.
Thieu said that today's session was extremely strenuous. The Generals had been willing to accept everything in the Constitution that pertained to the future, but they disapproved of the so-called "transitional period," making the Constituent Assembly the legislative body pending the election of the permanent legislature. They made the point that the Constituent Assembly had not been elected for that purpose, and that it was in effect a fraud on the voter.
They stressed that they were taking Thieu's and Ky's word that the national and international considerations were such as to justify overlooking that defect.
Thieu told me that he said to them that no constitution was perfect, but there would be opportunities in the future to correct the defects in this Constitution.
As I left, he said, "Tell President Johnson not to worry." Lodge.
121. Action Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Unger) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Kohler)/1/
Washington, March 27, 1967.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. Top Secret. A notation by Kohler, dated March 28, reads: "Discussed with S, who considers entire project approved in principle at top level and agrees to going ahead with implementation of first requirement."
1. On March 13 General Starbird and his associates briefed you on a strong point-obstacle system designed to inhibit infiltration into the northern portion of South Viet-Nam./2/ The unclassified code name of this project is Practice Nine. As you will recall, the initial phase calls for construction of a series of strong points just south of the DMZ extending inland a distance of approximately 30 KM. Secretary McNamara has given the go-ahead for the preliminary work on this portion of the system. Plans for a westward extension using air-dropped mines and sensors are still in a preliminary stage.
/2/The feasibility study of an anti-infiltration barrier across northern South Vietnam and southern Laos was begun under orders of McNamara on September 15, 1966. The Defense Communications Planning Group, headed by General Alfred Starbird, was in charge of planning and implementing the air, ground, and electronically supported anti-infiltration barrier. In its eastern part within South Vietnam, initially known as Practice Nine and later termed Illinois City, the barrier entailed a static system of bases between areas of ground obstacles. The section of the "barrier" that extended into Laos would include small teams used for reconnaissance and interdiction in operations known as Prairie Fire. Air operations in support of the line were termed Muscle Shoals and the troop-supported components of the barrier came under the code-name Dye Marker. The initial development of the barrier would occur in northeastern Quang Tri Province between the DMZ and Route 9. (Joint Chiefs of Staff, The History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the War in Vietnam, 1960-1968, Part III, pp. 45-16 - 45-28) On January 12, 1967, the President placed Practice Nine program in the category of highest national priority. (Memorandum from Rostow to the President, January 12; Johnson Library, National Security File, NSAMs, NSAM 358) A "MACV Practice Nine Requirements Plan" submitted by Westmoreland to Sharp, January 26, initially was disapproved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Department of Defense, Official Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 911/321 (9 Jan 67), IR 1160, Sec. 2) However, in a February 22 memorandum to McNamara, Wheeler stated his disagreement with the decision of the other service chiefs and recommended that the plan be implemented. (Ibid.) As a result, in a March 6 memorandum to the JCS, Secretary of Defense McNamara, upon the positive recommendation of Wheeler and despite protests from the four service chiefs and Sharp that the diversion of forces and funding for the scheme could not be arranged in the time called for, directed that preparations for the execution of the strong-point obstacle system go forward and that the system be in place by November 1. (Ibid.)
2. On March 9 CINCPAC/MACV was given authority to proceed with improvements to the port of Hue which will be receiving most of the Project Nine material and to Route One north of Hue. The next step will be to acquire the necessary right of way for the strong point system and to make arrangements for relocating civilians who will be displaced by the construction work or who will find themselves in the no-man's land between the line of strong points and the Demarcation Line between North and South Viet-Nam. MACV estimates that between 13,000 and 18,000 civilians will have to be relocated.
3. We have queried Saigon about GVN receptivity to this project and about the political, sociological and economic problems which it might create (Tab D)./3/ Saigon responded to the effect that the Mission saw no major difficulties, provided Washington was convinced that the cost of the project in manpower and matériel was justified (Tab C)./4/
/3/None of the tabs is printed. Tab D is telegram 156207 to Saigon, March 16. It informed the Embassy in Saigon that the Department would send it a joint State-Defense message requesting procurement of GVN support for the project.
/4/Tab C is telegram 20625 from Saigon, March 17, in which Lodge suggested that the GVN approved of the plan and would likely bring it up at the Guam conference.
4. DOD has now proposed that we send a Joint State/Defense message to Saigon asking the Embassy to approach the GVN to secure its support in the acquisition of land and the relocation of civilians (Tab A)./5/
/5/Tab A is a draft of telegram 164440 to Saigon which was sent on March 29. It was a joint State-Defense message directing the Embassy to approach the GVN in regard to Practice Nine. A copy of this telegram as it was transmitted is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S.
5. While we believe the initial 30 KM section of the system will be of limited military value as an anti-infiltration measure (it might have somewhat more utility as an impediment to an overt invasion) we can perceive no political problems associated with it which would justify our interposing an objection. However, it is important to bear in mind that to be fully effective against infiltration the system will have to be extended across the remainder of South Viet-Nam and into Laos. The more successful the initial section is the more the enemy will be forced to move his infiltration operations westward thus generating pressures for further extension. Approval of phase one of this system thus at least bears the implication of approval of the entire concept. In principle we would have no objection to the use of air-dropped sensors and mines in agreed areas of Laos so long as we continue the policy of conducting air operations against North Viet-Nam. But we would have to reserve judgment on the use of ground elements to back up the system. (We note that the use of a small number of ground forces is a feature of the preliminary plan for the Laos extension.)
6. Two other proposals which are connected with but not essential to the execution of Practice Nine are: (1) the use also of third country troops to man the strong point system in order to give it an international flavor and (2) the reconstruction of Route Nine, presumably all the way to the Mekong. Both of these proposals require further consideration. An immediate decision is not required. In the meantime EA will explore these problems further with Embassies Saigon & Vientiane./6/
/6/A joint State/DOD message, telegram 194042 to Bangkok and Vientiane, May 13, requested the Ambassadors in Laos and Thailand to secure the permission of their host governments for the implementation of logistical measures for the barrier. (Ibid.) There were also other problems that needed to be factored into consideration of the plan. In telegram 24607 from Saigon, May 3, the Embassy warned that if a proposal for mutual withdrawal was implemented, "the enormous cost of these installations would be wasted, and we would presumably have to destroy them, at further cost." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 2 D Barrier) In a June 1 memorandum, McNaughton recommended to McNamara that the Defense Department oppose a 10-mile line of mutual withdrawal, inside of which the barrier would be, since Practice Nine could not be implemented under those conditions. (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 72 A 2467, Viet Barrier 385 (Jan.-July 1967)) Also, in a memorandum dated May 22, Leonard Sullivan of the Office of Defense Research and Engineering argued that weather posed significant problems that had not been addressed. "The problems related to poor visibility, impossible surface trafficability, and potential isolation of these outposts during a very large percentage of the year are surpassed only by those caused by the level of enemy activity in the area." The obstacle system could not be established "without large troop commitments." (Department of Defense, Official Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 911/410 (22 May 67), IR 1436)
1. That you approve the attached Joint State/Defense message to Saigon relating to the acquisition of land and resettlement of population (Tab A).
2. That you sign a letter to Assistant Secretary McNaughton noting that approval of Phase One of this plan does not constitute approval of the details of subsequent phases of Project Nine (Tab B)./7/
/7/Tab B is a March 27 letter from Kohler to McNaughton, which informed him that the State Department approved the first phase of the project. As indicated in footnote 1 above, the measure was approved. In memorandum JCSM-204-67 to McNamara, April 17, the Joint Chiefs recommended that full implementation of the barrier concept be delayed until April 1, 1968, but requested that funds be allocated as soon as possible in order to initiate the line's construction and other operational requirements. (Department of Defense, Official Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 911/321 (Jan 67) IR 1160, Sec. 6) In a memorandum to the JCS on April 22, McNamara approved the implementation of measures designed to support the plan. He continued to hold to the November 1 deadline for completion. (Ibid.)
122. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Secretary of State Rusk/1/
Washington, March 28, 1967, 4:14 p.m.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Rusk, March 28, 1967, 4:14 p.m., Tape F67.10, Side A, PNO 2. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.
President: [Robert Kennedy] is doing it all over Europe, and so on and so forth. So he brought it up himself. He has no business doing it. I told him not to go over there and start explaining Vietnam; talk about others things until they brought it up, [then] he could answer it. But he just did it. I think maybe we ought to send him something from what you said today./2/ So, I guess that tickers will have it over there. So, you could say that we replied affirmatively, definitely, and positively, and they again said no.
/2/For Rusk's statement, which was critical of the North Vietnamese leadership for its apparent rejection of the recent peace formula proposed by U Thant, see Department of State Bulletin, April 17, 1967, pp. 618-624.
Rusk: I'll get my transcript right over to him.
President: I think that would be good. Now, I see you're going to be on "Today,"/3/ in the morning. I think that if they ask that question--or they ought to ask it--on did we harden ourselves, I think we ought to say no. We've taken the position that if they want us to stop, they had to be reciprocate [sic], and say, "Now, don't you think this would be unreasonable if we said to them we demand that you stop everything in South Vietnam while we continue to bomb; well, then, don't you think its unreasonable when they say to us you stop everything and we'll continue." You've used that three or four times, and it always makes a hit with me and I think everybody else listening to it. And then I'd answer Bobby and hit him hard. Not Bobby himself, but I would just say that the President said, "We'll do more than we've ever agreed to do before. We'll not only stop bombing; if you'll stop infiltrating, we'll stop augmentation. We'll do something extra. Now, if this doesn't suit you, you tell us what you want to do," and he left it wide open, and then came along. Nobody can defend Ho Chi Minh when he's acting that way. Some something like that, because that's got everybody confused. They say "Why did we get harder?" and we don't really hit it head on, and I think we got to.
/3/The "Today" show, a morning news program on broadcast television.
Rusk: I'll do that in the morning. Thank you.
123. Telegram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State/1/
New York, March 29, 1967, 2331Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Exdis. Received at 8:08 p.m.
4640. Re: Vietnam. I saw SYG this noon to talk over release of his proposals and our reply yesterday/2/ and to ascertain nature of NVNese reply. Bunche and Pedersen/3/ were present.
/2/On March 27 the DRV Foreign Ministry released a statement categorically rejecting Thant's initiative, notably asserting that "The United Nations has absolutely no right to interfere in any way in the Vietnam question." The full text of the statement is in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 892-893. Information on the reaction of UN officials is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, volume XXXIII. In a speech given on the occasion of the visit of officials of the Government of Afghanistan, the President publicly accepted Thant's plan on March 28. See Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, Book I, pp. 396-398.
/3/Ralph Bunche, UN Under Secretary-General for Special Political Affairs, and Richard Pederson, Deputy U.S. Representative in the Security Council.
SYG said he had decided to release texts yesterday morning after press had reported Hanoi reaction and in light inevitability continued speculation on its contents. He noted I had agreed this would be acceptable when Bunche had told me about it on telephone yesterday morning. I said I agreed that in circumstances he had no choice and thought NVNese could not take exception to what he had done.
SYG said he had been guarded in his answers to questions about NVNese reply and in his general answers in press conf because he wanted to protect his future utility. Consequently he did not want be critical about Hanoi position. I expressed view dust would now have to settle for awhile. SYG agreed.
SYG said he had one request to make of us, that was that we not play up too much that we had accepted his proposal and Hanoi had rejected it. In particular he did not want "friends in Moscow," who were of course informed throughout, to be embarrassed. He hoped we would feel that our public statements yesterday were sufficient and that we would not have to say much more at this point.
I told him we had always thought progress could best be made through private contacts and agreed on desirability of preserving his own capabilities. I noted, however, that we had public relations problems of our own and that it was necessary for our people to understand situation. In this connection I read him reports from several foreign correspondents which had been received by our USIA officers. Reports stated Narasimhan (UN) had been consulted last night by them about SYG's reaction to US reply and that Narasimhan had told them on background basis that SYG considered our reply to be negative.
SYG said he would look into the matter. No such statement had been authorized. In his statement yesterday he had refused to characterize any replies and this was position he intended to maintain. He had been asked by his press officer, in connection with normal press briefing for today, what he should say on this point. SYG had told him to stand strictly on his refusal yesterday to characterize the replies.
I told SYG I had also been approached by number of correspond-
ents who wished further background info and had been considering talking to them, but in light of SYG's comments about undesirability of further discussion at this point would not do so.
I then asked SYG whether he could give me any info on contents Hanoi's reply. SYG said reply had come through Moscow. (He did not say when he had received it but we assume from co-lateral info about his contacts with Fedorenko that he had received either preliminary or definitive reply by Friday.) He said it was first time in three years he had received written reply from Hanoi. Also stated reply had been friendly in tone throughout.
SYG said Hanoi's first point was complaint that he had told them in Rangoon he would not make his proposals public before he got NVNese reply. Bunche interjected to say that in context this statement seemed to mean they felt SYG had told them he would not give proposal to US before he had received their views. SYG said there seemed to have been complete misunderstanding. He had given no assurances that he would not give proposals to US. He noted, however, that the direct statement in their reply related to assurances he would not publicize proposals before receiving their reply. Of course he had not done so. He thought perhaps part of reason for Hanoi's reaction was because of announcement about SYG's plan from Saigon and Saigon's statement several days ago that they had made proposals for direct talks to Hanoi. I noted that what Saigon had said about SYG's plan appeared to have been inadvertent.
SYG said Hanoi's second point was that his first step equated the aggressor and victim of aggression and that it was "advantageous to US." They had not commented on his second and third steps.
Hanoi's third point was to thank him for his interest and his desire for peace and to say they appreciated his motivation. SYG noted this was very friendly para but his interpretation was that they did not want him to carry on.
Fourth Hanoi point was that UN had nothing to do with Vietnam.
I told SYG we thought no one ought to be advantaged or disadvantaged by a ceasefire. That was why we thought it would be advisable to have preliminary talks through him or directly or in some other form. If Hanoi was so disposed we would be glad to carry on a dialogue through SYG to assure no one was advantaged or disadvantaged by a ceasefire. SYG then added that Hanoi had also commented he had made his proposals while US was escalating the war.
I replied that if they had Guam meeting in mind SYG should know that meeting did not deal substantially with military matters and that basic purpose was to introduce our new diplomatic team to Saigon leadership. I also noted we had made special effort to reply to SYG's proposals before Guam meeting so as to indicate they were not connected.
SYG then said he thought we should know he had received info on Tues, March 21 from source close to Moscow that USSR and China had settled problem of transportation of supplies to NVN. He said source was reliable but it difficult to get confirmation and that Fedorenko had had no info.
I told SYG we had also had recent report of unknown reliability that he should know about, i.e. that there had been great disposition in Hanoi to respond more affirmatively to concept of negots but that Peking had intervened and threatened a coup in Hanoi if they accepted such proposals. SYG said he thought this was possible. Noted that Colonel Lau in Rangoon had stressed Hanoi's historical independence and determination to maintain it.
I also asked SYG whether he had any info on degree to which Hanoi was dependent on China for its supplies. Told him some of our reports indicated 70 percent of their outside supplies came from China. SYG said he had no independent info. He understood heavy arms generally came from USSR but small arms and rice came from China. I indicated that if source of supplies was problem in Hanoi's posture this was something that could be talked about as well.
124. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Postmaster General Lawrence O'Brien/1/
Washington, March 30, 1967, 9:23 a.m.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and O'Brien, March 30, 1967, 9:23 a.m., Tape F67.10, Side A, PNO 4. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.
O'Brien: [Robert Kennedy has put himself in] this position, and he knows that it's not politically good for him. I don't know what you do with that kind of situation. But I started talking about things like Model Cities and, you know, our basic program. I said, "You know, Bob, what we ought to be doing is fighting Republicans, for Christ-sakes," and God, frankly, I thought it was a hell of a meeting. I didn't ask for the meeting. He said, "Gee, I'd like to get together," and he came down, he had lunch with me and we spent two hours on a very confidential basis. And Christ, the day after we had that meeting, he went to New York, and made a statement in the press that he was looking forward to campaigning as hard as he could for you. And so I thought to myself, "Well, that's a little bit of a sign of improvement." Then, my God, a week later, I look in the paper and find his comment on the Ho Chi Minh letter./2/ So I'll be damned if I could figure that out. I haven't talked to him since. But he certainly--he told me he wanted to do everything possible he could in the 1968 campaign starting immediately; that he wanted no Goddamned involvement with any peace-maker in the country that was trying to use him in any primary or anything else and that there would be absolutely nothing like that happen, and that anything that I wanted to suggest to him on a day-to-day basis for him to do, and he'd appreciate having my advice and counsel and he'd follow it through.
/2/Kennedy decried the President's letter to Ho as a hardening of the U.S. Government's conditions for negotiations at the time of its public release on March 21.
President: Well, let me ask you this, Larry. Does he not realize that when he and Ribicoff/3/ get on there and say that I'm no friend of the poor on television and then come along here on the draft and knock the ass out of me on that and then they come along here on Vietnam and they hit the hell out of us on that and then they come along with these stories about calling me a son-of-a-bitch--Nick didn't leak that, and Rostow didn't leak it, and I didn't leak it, and it didn't happen./4/ But I'm told by a good man I've known 25 years in this town that his people called him up, and asked him to come up, and told him how Bobby chewed me out, and how I chewed him out, and how Bobby said "I don't have to listen to this" and all that kind of stuff. And his people leaked that. Now it seems to me that if he's as wise as we would hope he is, that he could see that is damaging pretty generally to him and to me. I don't believe either of us profit from it. I believe that if either of us do, the Manchester book, and that I believe that I do. I don't 4believe he does. Now, I may be wrong.
/3/Senator Abraham Ribicoff (D-CT).
/4/Reference is to Kennedy's February 6 meeting with the President; see footnote 2, Document 38.
O'Brien: No, you're right.
President: But I believe I am right. Now it seems to me the principal beneficiaries are the Republicans. Now let's assume that he wants to be President tomorrow. Let's just assume that--I believe that to be true. I think that he'd be President tomorrow if he could do it, so let's assume he does. It doesn't seem to me that with the President in here and in charge and willing to use it and to play anyway he needs to, although I've tried my best to play fair with Jack Kennedy--I think I have; my conscience is very, very clear on that point and I think on Vietnam that he's right where I am and I'm carrying out his policy--but let's just assume that he decided that he would try to defeat me for President. I don't honestly believe that if he did that he could possibly win because I just believe that my state and twenty others would be in revolt. I think that it would be a hell of a lot worse than Teddy Roosevelt and Taft/5/ because I'm in the Presidency and I've got the folks. Now, so I don't think he'd do that. I don't see why he wants us to have a bad record and to be defeated in '68 because then they take all this power that he could get in '72 if he wants to be President. I don't get their reasoning. Now, he's got Peace Corps people; Bill [Fulbright] says this Mankiewicz and Walinsky,/6/ whatever his name is; maybe Ken Galbraith and Schlesinger/7/--they directed Stevenson's/8/ campaign in '56, maybe they'll direct him. But I can't see from their angle, if they're interested in nothing but themselves, why it's to their advantage to make weak at all--the stronger they are, it's, hell, Kennedy made his man President; he carried on a good job, now let's take another man that Kennedy's interested in and make him President"--looks like that'd be the damn line. I don't see how they get anywhere with defeating us in '68 or weakening us in '68.
/5/Reference is to the Presidential election of 1912 when former President Theodore Roosevelt and sitting President William Howard Taft split the Republican Party, allowing the Democratic candidate, Woodrow Wilson, to win the election.
/6/Frank Mankiewicz and Adam Walinsky, staff assistants to Robert Kennedy.
/7/John Kenneth Galbraith, Ambassador to India, 1961-1963, and Arthur M. Schlesinger, Special Assistant to President John F. Kennedy.
/8/Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic Party's Presidential nominee in 1952 and 1956.
O'Brien: Well, they don't, and it's a completely stupid situation. But what you have to remember, and Arthur Schlesinger is adviser to the guy, and incidentally I told Bobby just what I'm telling you, that [if] Arthur Schlesinger is adviser to a guy, he's getting advice from about as stupid an individual politically as I've ever met in my life, and he's a completely irresponsible guy. You travel that path, they'll send you right down the Goddamn drain. And I said to Bobby, "I'll tell you, that potentially you're the leader of the Democratic Party in the future, and that future is down the road some years." And I said, "Of course the way these fellows are steering you, you could wind up the leader of the New Left, you know," and I told him exactly that, and frankly, he didn't disagree with me at all. He said, "Well, Goddamnit I know that I've fallen back and I know that I've got problems," and I said that "Well, Christ, I read in a magazine that a couple of guys whose names I can't even recall but are the new leaders of the New Left, they're up at your apartment advising you." I said "Christ, that's a hell of a long way over to a road that I never figured you'd travel." And I don't know those staff guys, but he's got one fellow, that they tell me, who's the worst bomb-thrower that ever lived--some guy who thinks Stokely Carmichael's/9/ a conservative--and those are the people that you're listening to every day of the week. Now I said to him, "Finally, the proof of the pudding is this: we've got a Goddamn mean situation going into '68, we've got a tough Congress, we've got a hell of a good program on the books--we're looking for new breakthroughs, and let's take Model Cities," and I went right over the failure of these people that are supposedly so interested in the cities to try to present amendments and work with Muskie,/10/ and I said "The proof of this over the next year will be how the hell much effort is being expended on behalf of the President's program, which is the Party's program, and how much effort is going to be expended fighting Republicans? It's as clear as that." And he left me after 2 hours saying, "Well, will you keep in touch with me, and I'd appreciate having your advice as we go along this road." And I said, "Well, okay, if that's the way you want it, let's see how it works." He was Goddamn concerned, Mr. President. I know him well enough to figure him there. He's arrogant and he's, you know, he can go off half-cocked. I've known this kid since 1951, and boy I've had some problems with him over the years. But he's never gotten anything from me when he's had to talk to me except total candor right from the shoulder, because what the hell, I'm not trying to play any game. And that's what he got that day and he took it in great style, and said that what I was saying made a hell of a lot of sense; he appreciated the comments I had made, and "By God, let's go out and work."
/9/Founding member of the Black Panther Party.
/10/Senator Edmund Muskie (D-ME).
President: All right now, let's get any other name that you can. What is your evaluation, if you had to pick the two best ones we've considered, who would you look at now?
O'Brien: Well, I would say at this point that I'd be looking at Booton and Sanders,/11/ and then the White House I'd be looking at Jimmy./12/
/11/Bernard Booton, former Administrator of the Small Business Administration, and Harold "Barefoot" Sanders, Legal Counsel to the President.
/12/James "Jim" Jones.
President: Okay, thank you. I'll talk to you. You get in to see me before I leave tomorrow.
O'Brien: Okay, Mr. President.
125. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/
Washington, April 1, 1967, 2:38 p.m.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Unger, cleared by Walsh, and approved by Rusk.
167136. For Amb Lodge from the Secretary. Ref: Saigon's 21308./2/
1. We were very much interested in your conversation with Ky reported reftel and felt that the line you took with him (para 4) represented correct "equi-distant" posture for us to be taking at present time when Ky and Thieu have not yet worked out question of candidacy. Consider it important that we not appear to be getting between them or making choice in one direction or other, or, for that matter, as between military and civilian candidates.
2. With this in mind we were wondering whether we should not leave same impression with Thieu so that he, no less than Ky, will know our thinking on this point. He provided an opening for this in the comments at his and Ky's press conference before their departure from Guam when he explained that his position was just like Ky's and that if Ky should run he would support him. To continue the analogy, "there are many other things he could do besides being President" and specifically we know of the improvements he would like to bring about in the ARVN and the leadership he could provide for it. It would also be desirable for Thieu to realize you had made similar point to Ky.
3. With regard to the Presidential candidacy the other thought still very much on our minds is the desirability of it being understood that the ticket which includes a leading military figure would also provide for prominent civilian participation in the Prime Ministerial post. Similarly, we can see the value of prominent military participation on Suu's or Huong's tickets.
4. We would be interested in having your current thinking on these matters.
126. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/
Saigon, April 3, 1967, 1033Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S. Secret; Exdis. Received at 8:09 a.m.
21973. For the Secretary from Lodge.
1. This is in reply to request in your 167136/2/ for my current thinking on forthcoming Presidential election:
2. I agree wholeheartedly with your paragraph 1. The only basis on which we should ever get involved would be if there were a candidate of substance who was strongly anti-American; happily there is no such person on the horizon.
3. Thus we have everything to lose and nothing to gain by backing one of the existing possible candidates. If we pick the loser, we obviously look foolish and have needlessly created a problem for ourselves. But if we pick a winner, we will thereafter be held responsible for all his mistakes. We have a strong interest in maintaining a relationship with the chief of the government which nothing more nor less than correct, in which we keep our word on those possible rare occasions when we give it, and in which we are thus regarded with respect. We should not "get into bed," as we did in the case of the late President Diem, with the result that we were held responsible for his errors--and with some justice.
4. As regards your paragraph 2, I quite agree that we should leave the same impression with Thieu. Although I have seen him quite recently, he has not really given me an opening and I doubt whether I should make a special démarche. On March 25, Ky raised the matter with me, which made it easy for me to comment. If an early occasion arises to see Thieu, I will have this point in mind.
5. I quite agree on the desirability of having a prominent civilian on a ticket headed by a military candidate for President (Thieu or Ky). The optimum arrangement would probably be announcement in advance of the choice of a prominent civilian (hopefully a capable administrator) for Prime Minister as well as a leading civilian politician as Vice Presidential candidate. This would permit fuller regional as well as military-civilian balance on the military ticket. If there should only be one civilian on the military slate, which would certainly be less desirable, then it might be better for him to be a candidate for Vice President rather than for Prime Minister. The Vice President, after all, is elected whereas the Prime Minister is appointed.
6. As you know, there are really no civilian politicians in this country in our meaning of the word. The two leading civilians mentioned as candidates are survivors from the days of conspiracy against the French and against Diem, and are estimable patriots, but neither Suu nor Huong would be likely to run the government with anything like the efficiency of Thieu or Ky. We hope that more capable civilian politicians will emerge during the first Presidential term.
7. With respect to your paragraph 3, I consider it important that there be a recognized military man on only one ticket, not only for symbolic reasons but so as to hold the military together during and after the election. Keeping the military together is the "law of the prophets" as far as Viet-Nam is concerned, and will be for some time. There should not be a political contest, for example, involving military men on both sides--or on more than two sides. I would expect--and hope--that one ticket would emerge with Thieu or Ky as candidate for President and that the opposing two or more tickets will be exclusively civilian in their make-up.
127. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union/1/
Washington, April 5, 1967, 7 p.m.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S. Secret; Exdis. Received at 8:09 a.m.
169339. Literally Eyes Only for Ambassador Thompson. Please arrange delivery to DRV mission Moscow by means you consider best suited to maximize chances of early transmission to Hanoi following letter from President to Ho:/2/
His Excellency Ho Chi Minh, President, Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
Dear Mr. President:
I was, of course, disappointed that you did not feel able to respond positively to my letter to you of February 8./3/
/3/See Document 82.
But I would recall to you the words Abraham Lincoln addressed to his fellow Americans in 1861:
"Suppose you go to war, you cannot fight always; and when, after much loss on both sides, and no gain on either, you cease fighting, the identical old questions as to terms of intercourse are again upon you."
In that spirit I wish to reaffirm the offers I made in my earlier letter. We remain prepared to talk quietly with your representatives to establish the terms of a peaceful settlement and then bring the fighting to a stop; or we are prepared to undertake steps of mutual de-escalation which might make it easier for discussions of a peaceful settlement to take place. Talks to either of these ends could take place in Moscow, Rangoon, or elsewhere.
Despite public discussion of our previous exchange of views, our responsibilities to our own peoples and to the world remain; and those responsibilities include bringing the war in Southeast Asia to an end at the earliest possible date.
It is surely clear that one day we must agree to reestablish and make effective the Geneva Accords of 1954 and 1962; let the people of South Viet Nam determine in peace the kind of government they want; let the peoples of North and South Viet Nam determine peacefully whether and how they should unite; and permit the peoples of Southeast Asia to turn all their energies to their economic and social development.
You and I will be judged in history by whether we worked to bring about this result sooner rather than later.
I venture to address you directly again in the hope that we can find the way to rise above all other considerations and fulfill that common duty. I would be glad to receive your views on these matters.
Sincerely, Lyndon B. Johnson, April 6, 1967. End Text.
128. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State/1/
Moscow, April 6, 1967, 2043Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET. Secret; Flash; Nodis. Passed to the White House at 4:25 p.m.
4299. State 169715./2/ When I discussed ABM/3/ with Kosygin he said important thing in this area was confidence and frankly indicated that Soviets had lost confidence in our word. In context of our discussion of Vietnam I had strong impression he considered our bombing close to Hanoi and Haiphong and our more recent escalation as breach of what they wrongly or rightly thought was our policy in Vietnam affair. There have been many indications from Soviets that they would sit still for almost anything we might do in South Vietnam but our bombing in the North was humiliating them particularly when we hit northern part of North Vietnam not directly related to invasion routes. In a recent conversation Yuri Zhukov/4/ referred to Soviet restraint but hinted this could not go on much longer and mentioned specifically pressure to send Soviet volunteers.
/2/Dated April 6. (Ibid., ORG 7 U)
/3/Reference is to discussions regarding antiballistic missile systems.
/4/The principal international correspondent for the Soviet newspaper Pravda.
While I think Soviets will go to great lengths to avoid direct involvement, actions such as sending volunteers, stirring up Korean affair or other bits of unpleasantness are real possibilities if we go much farther. Moreover since they are in my opinion genuinely convinced that bombing alone will not bring war to an end, they wonder if our purpose is not chiefly to demonstrate their impotence to protect one of their allies with consequent effects on their general policy toward US.
Believe my views on specific target alternatives are already on record. If we must do more in the North I would hope escalation could be confined to southern part of North Vietnam.
129. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/
Saigon, April 6, 1967, 0945Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S. Secret; Exdis. Received at 8:29 a.m.
22283. Subject: Elections, election laws and security for candidates.
1. During a conversation April 6 with Prime Minister Ky I had an opportunity to discuss a range of questions related to elections in Viet-Nam.
A. Electoral Laws
2. I observed that the GVN had asked the Assembly to complete the electoral laws for the elections of President, Vice President, upper and lower houses by the end of April. We felt that close cooperation between the GVN and the Assembly would be necessary even to come near the deadline and, more importantly, to write satisfactory laws. We believed that there was no time to be lost in notifying the Assembly as soon as possible regarding the broad outlines of what should be in the law. I added that electoral laws could be of great importance in determining whether the elections would be fair and free; whether they provided equality for all candidates; or whether they contained convincing safeguards against election fraud. I also thought it was of the utmost importance that the law should try to insure that the winner had a respectable mandate--40 percent of the vote or more./2/
/2/Ambassador Bunker reported in telegram 25837, May 16, that the Assembly, under government pressure, voted down a provision for a run-off election. "This episode is one more example of the fact that there are only certain lengths to which we can properly go in seeking to influence and advise the GVN or the Assembly on such matters," Ambassador Bunker noted. "The final decision is theirs." (Ibid.)
3. In reply, Ky said that he had already talked with the members of the Assembly. He said that they planned to ask for technical assistance from the Ministry of Revolutionary Development and this Ministry would, of course, provide it.
4. Comment: I raised this subject at this time in the hope that exchanges of view between the GVN and Constituent Assembly would commence immediately rather than delay the Assembly's work on this difficult subject, as it did during the constitution drafting process. End comment.
B. Security at Election Time
5. I stressed the importance of security in this connection. As regards the candidates for President, there could be no doubt that the assassination of someone of the stature of Suu or Huong/3/ could have a devastating effect, possibly destroying everything that Ky had labored to build up during the last year. In that sense, it could be a bigger defeat than either Suu or Huong could inflict while alive. It was important for the government to provide security for Suu and Huong, and it was important for the whole world to know it. I would personally be happy to see them followed around by a jeep full of policemen as I was.
/3/Telegram 22404 from Saigon, April 7, summarized the various threats against Deputies, and quoted one Vietnamese source as suggesting that General Nguyen Ngoc Loan, a strong supporter of Ky, was behind the activities. (Ibid.) In telegram 185018 to Saigon, April 29, the Department requested that Bunker make a strong démarche to Ky on the matter. (Ibid.)
6. Ky said that he had offered security to Suu who had refused, saying that he was so popular that nobody would ever do him any harm.
7. I said that I was not sure that this was enough. I believed a written offer would be in order and also I thought that he should provide the security whether Suu consented or not. Ky's record in this regard should be absolutely beyond any possible reproach.
8. He agreed and said he would act in this way.
9. I also brought up the recent reports that six Constituent Assembly Deputies had received dud grenades and threatening letters signed by a group of "progressive journalists." I said that some people had tried to plant the idea with me that this had been done by the Director of Police./4/
/4/A reference to Loan.
10. I said that I had told them that this was obviously impossible. I said that the Director of Police acted under the orders of Prime Minister Ky and that I knew that Prime Minister Ky was much too broad- minded and farsighted a man to go in for these picayune ("mesquin"), French-style, would-be-clever tactics. Here again, I said that Prime Minister Ky's best interest lies in providing security for everybody involved in the political life of Viet-Nam, and having it well known by them that they were doing it, so that when they talked to any newspapermen this fact would be reflected.
11. Comment: I feel that what I said about the French may have a persuasive effect. Ky is very critical of French tactics and of the methods which the French have used here to sow suspicion and division. And in his own heart, he is happiest when he feels that he is not acting like the French. He expressed his agreement with my remarks. End comment.
12. I congratulated him on the successful carrying out of the first round of local elections. This would have to be continued by providing firm and continuing support to the new village and hamlet organs of government.
C. Presidential Election
13. I was happy to learn that his view of how the Presidential elections should develop is similar to that expressed in our Saigon 21973./5/ He agreed with me that a military man who is a candidate for President would choose a civilian as Vice Presidential candidate who was politically symbolic and who complemented the Presidential candidate's political attributes. He also agreed that the Presidential candidate would announce whom he would appoint as Prime Minister, and this should not be politically symbolic but should be a civilian known for his executive ability, for his brains and for his drive. I asked: "Someone like the Minister of Economy, Mr. Hanh?" and Ky agreed. Thus Ky is thinking in terms of three names per ticket.
14. Comment: This means that there could be a situation in which there would be one slate with a military man for President, a civilian for Vice President, and a civilian announced as the Prime Minister in case of victory, and, in addition, two or maybe three slates in which all the positions would be held by civilians, for a possible total of four slates, making at least eleven individuals involved in the campaign who would be civilians and one who would be military.
15. This may be better "scenery" than a consensus situation in which the military candidate has been able to organize practically everybody for him. Yet it could mean some real non-Communist political opposition, which is essential. It is clearly much better than having a contest between two military men, which could be disastrous. It does carry with it the risk that the winner will not have 40 percent of the vote. It does seem to give the whole thing as "civilian" an appearance as possible, given the realities. The problem is quite baffling since there are no polls in which I have confidence and there are no previous election figures, and it is hard at this stage to have even an educated guess on, for example, how strongly Ky would run against Suu.
E [sic]. Significance of the Constitution
16. We then had a talk on the broad psychological implications of the promulgation of the Constitution, with me saying that this was an event which transcended in importance the actual substantive features of the Constitution itself--important though these were. The Constitution, I ventured, symbolized some very new and constructive attitudes which were at work in Viet-Nam: first, a spirit of self-confidence; second, a spirit of moderation, of live and let live, of striving for unity; and third, an attitude of responsibility--of being willing to take responsibility for their own actions and not act irresponsibly thinking that somebody would bail them out. I said that these were all traits which colonialism traditionally sought to quash.
17. He said, "This is exactly what I think about it. And I hope it means that now that we have been able to think and act this way with regard to the Constitution this state of mind will become widespread in all our other affairs."
130. Memorandum for the Record/1/
Palm Desert, California, April 6, 1967.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Name File, Eisenhower. Top Secret. Drafted by Goodpaster on April 7.
1. I met with General Eisenhower for two and one-half hours, 6 April 1967, at his residence at Palm Desert, California. The purpose of the meeting was to give him a current report on the war in Vietnam, reflecting therein principal matters touched on at the recent conference of the President in Guam. For the latter purpose, I drew primarily upon a summary recently given to me orally by General Wheeler, having in mind my visit to General Eisenhower.
2. Beginning with South Vietnam, I reviewed recent major operations, noting particularly Operation Junction City in War Zone C./2/ I indicated the military operations are going well. Overall, the military situation continues to improve. The Communists show signs indicating they desperately desire a victory, but each effort to achieve one results in heavy losses to them. I also covered river and coastal operations, and the continued use of B-52s. General Eisenhower referred to press reports he had seen regarding large numbers of defectors under the Chieu Hoi program. I told him they ran more than 1,000 a week in March--some 5,000 for the month--and this may reflect the impact our sustained operations are having, especially on those other than dedicated hard-core Communists.
/2/Beginning on February 22 through May 14, MACV launched Operation Junction City against Communist strongholds in War Zone C, the area northwest of Saigon to the Cambodian border. The goal was to inflict extensive casualties upon the enemy by the utilization of concentrated air power, artillery barrages, and pitched battles. This practical application of attrition strategy had mixed results, for although 164 enemy base camps were destroyed and 2,728 enemy KIAs were inflicted, the headquarters of COSVN was never found. See Joint Chiefs of Staff, The History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the War in Vietnam, 1960-1968, Part III, pp. 42-5 - 42-7.
3. General Eisenhower discussed at length the pacification phase, and the emphasis this should receive. In response to his questions, I told him this is showing progress, although movement is slow. He said he regards this phase and the military operations as intertwined. I told him General Westmoreland also considers that military operations and local security form a single war. In further discussion, I said that further steps are being considered to strengthen pacification efforts and their tie-in to the military campaign. It was my impression that he felt a solution to the problem of organizing effectively for pacification was long overdue, and that he would favor placing it under General Westmoreland. Referring to the appointment of Ambassador Bunker, he said he has an extremely high opinion of him. Ambassador Bunker's experience in India, and understanding of Asians, should stand him in good stead./3/ In further discussion, I indicated General Wheeler believes that Ambassador Bunker, like Ambassador Lodge, will carefully avoid getting into military operations. General Eisenhower expressed his strong endorsement, and reiterated his strong view that officials in Washington, 10,000 miles from the conflict, should not attempt to control the conduct of operations. He recalled that General Marshall, during the Battle of the Bulge, had sent him a personal message stating that he had issued instructions that General Eisenhower was not to be bothered, and that if he nevertheless received messages from the War Department, he should discard them.
/3/Bunker was Ambassador to India, 1956-1961.
4. I next covered operations against North Vietnam. In the air campaign, heavy pressure continues, and thermal power plants are included in the targetting. The weather has been bad, and has restricted actual strikes. His principal comment was that a course of "gradualism" in conducting air operations is bound to be ineffective, and that operations within the scope now conducted would have been vastly more effective if employed from the outset. He referred to the example he has previously given of attacking a battalion with two battalions, and taking heavy losses, while an attack with a division would suffer far fewer losses. He also expressed concern over the amount of public discussion of what targets we will or will not hit, since such discussion is bound to be of advantage to the enemy.
5. Turning next to Laos, I reported on continued air attacks against the Communist LOC. The southwest monsoon should be beginning during the next month or six weeks, and this will curtail the Communist movement of matériel. I also reported that covert ground operations into Laos continue to expand (I have previously indicated to him that these, if carefully expanded and intensified, can be of strategic value in impeding Communist logistical throughput).
6. General Eisenhower asked about troop strengths and whether additional forces are contemplated. I told him the Joint Chiefs of Staff are reviewing possible additional forces in connection with operations in the delta, or against the two NVA divisions estimated to be in Cambodia, or the three NVA divisions estimated to be in the general area of the Demilitarized Zone. I stressed that there has been no decision on this matter--it is simply under examination. General Eisenhower asked whether our forces go into Cambodia. I told him they do not. The NVA forces in and near the DMZ are being pounded hard by air and artillery, and by ground action south of the DMZ. I also reported on the progress being made in developing and producing weapons for use in barrier-type operations along the DMZ and adjoining infiltration routes in Laos.
7. I next touched on the political situation within South Vietnam. Here also there is improvement as pacification proceeds. Also, the adoption of the constitution, and the excellent turn-out in the local elections to date are highly encouraging. On the international side, the intemperate response by Ho Chi Minh to the President's sober and constructive letter has tended to clear the air./4/ I added that the President has made clear he has no intention of stopping any military action unless or until there is a substantial quid pro quo. I told him there is some evidence that the authorities in Hanoi are receiving vastly inflated reports of U.S. losses from their fighting forces, and that they may believe that opposition within the United States to the President on the Vietnam war is far more effective and influential than it is, and could cause the United States to give up the fight as the French did, and that this may be leading them to fight on despite their steadily worsening military situation.
/4/Reference is to the President's February 2 letter (see Document 32). For Ho's response, see Document 82. Hanoi released the exchange on March 21. See Department of State Bulletin, April 10, 1967, pp. 595-597.
8. General Eisenhower asked concerning NVA logistic use of the DMZ. I said this has been well established. Our air and naval interdiction is having a heavy impact, however. Although this cannot be determined in exact terms, the best professional judgment is that it has been of major importance in limiting the frequency, scale and intensity of Communist attacks on our forces in South Vietnam.
[Here follows discussion of China, NATO, Cyprus, and Iran.]
131. Letter From the President's Special Assistant (Komer) to the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Vance)/1/
Washington, April 7, 1967.
/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 72 A 2468, Vietnam 380 Pacification 1967. Secret; Eyes Only. An attached note indicates that Komer sent the letter through McNaughton with the following warning: "Don't let this get around, or I'll be in trouble." A notation on the letter reads: "Discuss with Mr. McNamara."
Any mention of force increases beyond US Program Four/2/ level simply underlines the urgency of getting more for our money out of ARVN. This is not my business, but I want to suggest that nothing could be more useful than giving Creighton Abrams a healthy charge on this before he goes to Saigon./3/
/2/Program Four was the planned deployment to bring the strength of U.S. forces in Vietnam up to 87 battalions and 469,000 troops by mid-1968.
/3/General Abrams was the incoming Deputy Commander of MACV, a position whose duties included the military aspects of the pacification program.
Under our prodding, MACV has paid more attention to revamping ARVN in the last six months than in the previous eighteen. As reported after my February trip, progress is being made. But it is still far short of what could be achieved if we really set our minds to it. Porter and the knowledgeable civilians in Saigon (e.g. Dan Ellsberg)/4/ insist that, while 50 ARVN battalions have been transferred to pacification on paper, there has not in most cases been much real change. Nor will a two-week retraining course by a JGS/MACV mobile training team do more than start the process of retraining ARVN battalions. I am also surprised to find that according to MACV's own figures only about 40% of the RF and PF (at a quick calculation) are engaged in what MACV calls "direct support of RD," i.e. pacification.
/4/Daniel Ellsberg was detailed to the Mission's Office of Civil Operations.
The recent VC attack on Saigon police station and the raid on Quang Tri city are good examples of ARVN inadequacy. I am personally convinced that nothing would give us a quicker and cheaper increase in effectiveness than an all-out effort to revamp, re-inspire, and revivify ARVN, RF, and PF. These assets are already largely bought and paid for. The US advisory structure is already in place. The chief added input needed is more top management attention. Westy confessed to me just after Guam that he had been forced to neglect the ARVN advisory role because he had to shift to managing growing US forces.
Hence a respectful suggestion--why not do up for Abrams to take out with him say a ten-point program for revamping ARVN which he could sell to Westy and then the JGS? I would be happy to contribute discreetly to any such exercise. The basic proposition is that with about one million Vietnamese military and civilians already being supported by us, there would be far less need for major added US forces if only we could get a marginal increase in the effectiveness of the GVN's military, pacification, and civil side assets.
132. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/
Saigon, April 8, 1967, 0930Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S. Secret; Exdis.
22498. 1. During a talk with General Thieu April 8, I discussed the following matters related to elections and Presidential candidates.
A. Security of Presidential and Other Candidates
2. I stressed to Thieu substantially what I had stressed to Ky concerning the importance of getting really adequate security protection to the Presidential candidates./2/ If anything were to happen to one of them, I said, it could undo much of the work that had been accomplished in the last year. He seemed to think about it and finally agreed with me. I also stressed the Deputies and those who are running in local elections. I referred to the Deputies who are receiving candy boxes containing grenades painted red and asked who he thought was doing it. He said that literally anyone could do it, that these were normal Vietnamese tactics and it could come from a disaffected nationalist. One thing was sure: when this kind of thing went on, it threatened the prestige of the police.
/2/See Document 129.
B. Presidential Campaign
3. I then sought to carry out the instruction in State 167136./3/ I began by remarking that I had been out on the Enterprise the day after General Thieu and General Ky had been there, and that I had been advised of General Thieu's statement, when asked, whether he would be a candidate for President, as follows: "Maybe yes, maybe no. I endorse General Ky." Then, I said, apparently General Ky had said substantially the same thing.
4. I told General Thieu that I had told General Ky--and now wished to tell him--that we thought this was a broadminded attitude and that a friendly accommodation and decision on this matter was very important.
5. I then said that it was obvious that it would not be good for any Presidential candidate in Viet-Nam to be known as the "American candidate." Neither, I said, would it be good for us. Obviously, the voters had to believe that a candidate could work with the Americans, but this is a very different thing from being an American puppet.
5. [sic] He agreed and said that any President who was elected as the "American candidate" would find his work extremely difficult thereafter. There was, however, he said, a strong belief to this effect--a "prejudice," if you will, that American money and American organization always decide such questions.
6. I recalled that when I came here in 1963,/4/ we had helped President Diem in many ways, with the result that many Vietnamese were holding us responsible for the police state methods which were then being used. It was very hard to prove them wrong when they said that we had a considerable responsibility for this. For us to sponsor Presidential candidates had a colonial flavor, would put us in a false light, and would tend to retard the encouraging progress which was being made in Viet-Nam toward developing an attitude of self-confidence and of responsibility.
/4/Lodge's initial appointment as Ambassador to Vietnam was on August 1, 1963.
7. He said that it would indeed be desirable to "wipe out this prejudice," but he thought that the only way it could be done would be by the passage of time, by facts, by the truth. As people watched the situation and saw day after day that none of these things happened which they said were going to happen they would be convinced.
8. Comment: We are thus on record with both Ky and Thieu of being "equidistant" and of not "getting between them or making a choice in one direction or another, or, for that matter, between military and civilian candidates," to quote from 167136./5/ The conversation did not develop in a way to make it possible to discuss what he would "do besides being President."
C. What Thieu Said Yesterday
9. Frank McCullough, the Time correspondent in Hong Kong, told me the following:
10. Yesterday, Friday, he received word from Thieu's press aide, Major Lam, that Thieu would like to see him. When he went to the Palace Friday afternoon, Lam said to be sure to ask Thieu about Big Minh./6/ When McCullough went into Thieu's office, Lam came along too.
/6/ Duong Van Minh, the former Vietnamese Chief of State who went into exile in late 1964, was barred from returning to Vietnam in May 1965.
11. The conversation began with Thieu saying that Ky was really unbeatable. He was very well known; he had the police on his side; he had General Thang in effect as "campaign manager with his whole revolutionary development organization behind him"; and he had access to money and resources which nobody else had. Comment: I believe this is unfair to Thang. End comment.
12. When McCullough asked whether Thieu was willing to serve as Prime Minister under Ky, Thieu said that, of course, he would, just as Ky would serve as Prime Minister under Thieu. He never gave any evidence of any bad feeling toward Ky.
13. McCullough told me he had forgotten the suggestion which Lam had made to him about Big Minh, and that Lam in effect prodded him by telling McCullough to ask Thieu about Big Minh. When McCullough did so, Thieu said that, under the new Constitution, there was absolutely no reason why Big Minh could not come back whenever he wanted to, that no charges were pending against him, and that he would undoubtedly be the most popular candidate who could be nominated. A strong ticket would be Big Minh for President with Huong for Vice President. He, Thieu, would be glad to serve as the Prime Minister in such a government. He in effect admitted that Big Minh would not be a strong President, but the inference was that with Thieu as Prime Minister, that would not matter. It also became clear from other things which Thieu said that Thieu was in touch with Big Minh, since Thieu knew that at the moment, Big Minh was in Paris for his sister's funeral.
14. Thieu also said that it was impossible for anybody to be elected without the support of the Americans which contrasts with what he said to me this morning.
15. Comment: I believe it is true that Big Minh is the most popular figure in Viet-Nam and that an arrangement with Big Minh as President and Thieu as Prime Minister would be unobjectionable from our viewpoint. A ticket with Huong as Vice President would be strong and hard to defeat. Thieu is an extremely clever thinker and planner and he has undoubtedly figured out that this is his very best way to stay in a position of power. I believe that he is probably right that in a race between Ky and him, Ky would do much better. He has evidently decided that he would rather be Prime Minister under Big Minh than Prime Minister under Ky, I presume for the obvious reason that with Big Minh he could run the show whereas Ky is much smarter and stronger than Big Minh.
16. I recommend that this is one thing which they had better work out for themselves and that we should not get involved. We are in the lucky position that any of these combinations is perfectly satisfactory from our viewpoint.
17. Foregoing is at this stage only a report of Thieu's statements and we cannot judge the degree of probability of such an arrangement being actually worked out. We will follow this closely, however, and report any info bearing on it.
18. As the Department remembers, it was Thieu who conceived and executed the plot in January 1964 whereby Big Minh and General Don, who went to bed one night with all the levers of the powers in their hands, were awakened in the middle of the night and found themselves out of office and under arrest. Yet it is true that Thieu got along very well with Big Minh in previous years and might get along very well with him again in the future.
15. If Big Minh returns, we will confront a totally new situation as regards the election of a President. Looking at it with the utmost objectivity, it will be better for the U.S. in such a situation to be represented by an Ambassador who does not know all the persons involved as intimately as I do. When Ambassador Bunker handles it in an objective way, there is a good chance that his objectivity will be accepted by everyone. I would, of course, be objective too, but I am a warm friend of Prime Minister Ky, a very good friend of Thieu, and a warm friend of Big Minh. Therefore, when the pressure began to mount, each might put out the idea that he had my goodwill and it would be much harder for me to make my objectivity believable than it would be for Ambassador Bunker.
20. McCullough says he is not filing anything, but has told New York about it and that he is "watching."
133. Memorandum of Meeting/1/
Washington, April 13, 1967, 3:30 p.m.
/1/Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Subject Files, Vietnam, General--Jan.-March 1967. Top Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in Harriman's office.
The group briefly reviewed the status of two outstanding initiatives:
a. Gromyko indicated to Ambassador Thompson that the Russians would be reluctant in assisting us in establishing direct contact with the DRV personalities at this time, and, in general, Gromyko took a very negative position. For the present, therefore, attempts to establish contacts with the DRV through the Soviets will be in suspense.
b. The Secretary approved forwarding our DMZ proposal to Ambassador Lodge for passing to General Ky./2/ There was some discussion as to whether we should hold up forwarding it until Foreign Minister Do arrived in Washington on Monday, April 17. It was decided, however, that we should go ahead immediately in sending the telegram to Saigon./3/
/2/Following up on U Thant's earlier call for a cease-fire as well as one for truce talks on April 10 by the Government of Ceylon, Paul Martin, Canadian Minister for External Affairs, submitted a peace proposal on April 11 outlining a restoration of the DMZ, a standstill truce, and a return to the provisions of the Geneva agreement. For text, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 911-914.
/3/With U.S. encouragement, on April 18 the GVN announced its support for the Canadian proposal and established a National Reconciliation program. (Meeting among Harriman, Do, and Diem, April 20; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, EA/VN Files: Lot 71 D 88, POL 1--Memcons/Departmental 1967) The U.S. Government had already endorsed another GVN peace move on April 8, namely the proposal for a 24-hour truce on Buddha's birthday, May 23. See American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, p. 911. On April 28 the NLF proclaimed its own cease-fire for the period May 22-24; see ibid., pp. 924-925.
Mr. Colby reviewed the Agency's approaches to the NLF. In essence, CAS is proceeding with various efforts to approach several key NLF figures. They are now running 12 cases, all "long shots". Most of these contacts are being made without the knowledge of the GVN./4/
/4/Chester Cooper described the efforts to engage the NLF in a separate peace process as "very thin." Direct GVN-NLF contacts would be difficult, although contacts with individual members were more promising. Concerning unilateral U.S. overtures to the NLF, he warned that "anything that would suggest to Saigon that the United States was making a deal behind the back of the GVN might poison the working relationship between Washington and Saigon." In addition, Hanoi would not permit any arrangement not in congruence with its own interests. In a covering memorandum, Cooper concluded that there was little prospect for movement by the NLF without "substantial political concessions" while there could be virtually no compromise by the GVN in the foreseeable future. (Memorandum by Cooper, April 6, attached to a memorandum from Cooper to Katzenbach, April 7; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, CSM 6 VIET S) In telegram 22406 from Saigon, April 7, Lodge argued that it was not only "premature" to open such a channel but that both the GVN and the DRV would regard the effort as "over-eagerness on our part" that would make the United States appear "weak" and would "confirm certain fears in GVN circles that our objective is a 'shotgun' marriage." (Ibid., POL 14 VIET S)
Mr. Bundy reported briefly on his views with respect to Sino-Soviet relations as they affect shipments of matériel to North Vietnam. Circumstantial evidence indicated that whatever frictions may have existed between Moscow and Peking have been pretty much resolved as of late February.
The Governor discussed his views of Amb. Thompson's 6 April telegram./5/ Governor Harriman agreed emphatically with Amb. Thompson that the Russians were humiliated at their inability to protect North Vietnam from air attacks and he felt that Moscow would respond to our escalation by providing the North Vietnamese with additional, and possibly new, weapons./6/ He also agreed with Amb. Thompson that the Russians might increase tensions elsewhere in an effort to divert us from Vietnam. The Governor felt strongly that it would be worth an effort to meet with the Russians to see whether they could be induced to move ahead with a settlement on Vietnam. The Committee should give serious thought as to whether we should press the Soviets at this time and, if so, the best way of doing this. There is no point in just sending another letter to Kosygin; we must be prepared to discuss some substantive proposition of interest to Moscow. The Governor acknowledged that it was a serious question whether the Soviets could deliver Hanoi, but he felt that we had not really made a serious attempt to do this.
/5/ Document 128.
/6/In an April 10 letter to Thompson, Kohler took issue with this point, asserting that it and the threat of Soviet intervention in reaction might be "just a ploy" by Soviet Premier Kosygin. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET)
Mr. Bundy felt that the Kosygin talks in London had strained Soviet influence in Hanoi. The Russians had probably already completed a new aid deal with Hanoi and, until the additional assistance had been absorbed, Hanoi and Moscow would be unlikely to respond to offers of negotiation. There was considerable discussion as to whether we should wait at least a month before approaching the Russians; Gov. Harriman felt strongly that an early approach, if carefully implemented, would be worthwhile. Mr. Read felt that the increased Soviet aid might present opportunities as well as challenges, since Soviet influence had probably increased in Hanoi as a consequence of the new aid agreement./7/
/7/In an April 14 memorandum to Hughes, Bundy requested a "careful assessment of what the Soviets may intend and may do in relation to Vietnam." Bundy considered a reported transit agreement for the shipment of Soviet supplies through China to North Vietnam to represent what appeared to be a new level of commitment by the Soviet Union to its ally. (Ibid., Bundy Files: Lot 85 D 240, Top Secret WPB Chron, Jan.-Apr. 1967) In INR Research Memorandum RSB-31 entitled "Soviet Interests and the Vietnam War," April 21, Hughes explored the complex nature of Soviet interests in Indochina. Moscow had a "strong (and even an increasing) interest" in the continuation of the war, but if the war turned against Soviet interest, which it could if there were a tactical military defeat or an extension of Chinese influence, Moscow would keep as many options open as possible to initiate negotiations. (Ibid., EA/ACA Files: Lot 69 D 277, Vietnam File, USSR 1967) But strong warnings from the Soviet Government meant to counter U.S. intensification of the war also provided evidence of greater Soviet support of Hanoi. These Soviet admonitions were offered as a means of impressing upon the United States the determination of the Soviet Union to support the DRV. The Soviet response could include increased Soviet military involvement or a halt to progress on bilateral issues, INR argued in Research Notes 340 and 349, May 2 and May 4. (Ibid.) Special National Intelligence Estimate (SNIE) 11-11-67, May 4, suggested that statements of increasing Soviet support for North Vietnam acted as a mechanism to forestall a frustrated Johnson administration from escalating the conflict. However, the available responses by Moscow were limited. "We do not think the Soviets are prepared to resort to strong and direct threats of general war as a means to protect North Vietnam or to preserve Soviet face," the estimate concluded. (Ibid.)
Following the meeting, the Governor forwarded a memorandum to the President and the Secretary commenting on Amb. Thompson's telegram and suggesting that the Negotiations Committee be charged with the task of developing an approach to Moscow for the purpose of getting a negotiation going./8/
/8/In an April 13 memorandum to Rusk and the President, Harriman underscored his concern that the Soviets were prepared to prevent the collapse of the DRV and would defend it with strong measures, such as instigating actions in other troubled areas of the world. He did note the opportunity and necessity to still involve the Soviets in bringing about a settlement. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Subject Files, Johnson, Lyndon 1967)
134. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/
Saigon, April 15, 1967, 1110Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S. Secret; Nodis. Received at 7:40 a.m.
23179. Personal for Bundy from Lodge.
1. During a call by former Vice President Nixon, Prime Minister Ky remarked that the election of such a man as Phan Khac Suu to be President of Viet-Nam could destroy much of what has been accomplished in the last two years, with a real risk of the Viet Cong regaining control of large elements of the country. He obviously was not in any way reflecting on Phan Khac Suu's patriotism or loyalty, but on the impossibility of a man of his age, of his lack of knowledge of modern governmental problems and of his general inadequacy to lead the country against a resourceful and determined enemy./2/
/2/For a description of former Vice President Richard Nixon's brief mid-April private visit to Vietnam, see Richard Nixon, The Memoirs of Richard Nixon (New York: Grossett & Dunlap, 1978), pp. 282-283; and Stephen Ambrose, Nixon: The Triumph of a Politician, 1962-1972 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989), pp. 110-112.
2. I agree with Ky in this regard and have already said as much, both in cables and at Guam.
3. After Nixon had left, Ky discussed the forthcoming election and asked me what I thought. I said that it was very hard for me to make a prediction as to how the election would turn out as there were no previous election figures. I also did not have much confidence in public opinion polls taken in Viet-Nam because I believed that most Vietnamese, when interrogated by a poll-taker (or by anyone else), tend to tell the interrogator what they think he wants to hear. Ky laughed and said that I had it sized up absolutely right.
4. He said he thought that in the forthcoming election, organization would have a decisive effect. Most Vietnamese, he said, were still not politically minded, even though the number who were was growing. Most Vietnamese also did not have strong views concerning the various candidates because they did not know much about any of them. In a situation like that, the candidate who was the best organized would have the best chance of winning. What did I think?
5. I said there was a good deal of truth in that and that if he were a candidate, he would obviously have an advantage as regards organization. Even if, I said, there was no impropriety regarding General Loan's activities and even if there was no impropriety as regards the activities of the Ministry of Revolutionary Development, these agencies naturally have personnel spread all over the country and the mere fact that they know Ky and he is a flesh and blood figure to them could have great influence--probably more influence if all the proprieties were observed than otherwise. In general, I said, organization is decisive in an election which is very close. In such a situation, it can decide the issue.
6. Comment: I can still conceive, however, of Phan Khac Suu getting quite a big vote, not because anybody thinks he would make a particularly good President or because anybody thinks he is a really able executive, but because of what he symbolizes--the South, his conspiracies against the French and against Diem. End comment.
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