Start over again. I left Saigon
August 30 of ah 1963
as I recall on a very long, 24-hour flight eh to Washington
, ah and on the plane ah I reflected ah on the previous few days which, of course, was the period during which the telegram ah ah talking about a coup had, had been received by Ambassador Lodge (clears throat) and mulling over the whole situation, I pretty well made up my mind that there were three major main impediments that seemed to me to continue our effort in Vietnam.
The first was the doctrine of counter-insurgency itself which I felt ah on balance no one really understood, ah wouldn't wash, and didn't meet the needs of that particular situation in this country, the conditions of the country such as they were, at least such as I analyzed them.
Ah. Secondly, I was clear that Diem had lost any measure of support and could not be rescued no matter what we did and I found it very difficult to come with a, with a, an alternative that would have continued fighting the war in a positive way, and third, and this I think is more difficult for me to state, but I really felt that ah ah our leadership did not understand the problem in Vietnam, and did not understand the country and was leading itself down a garden path to illusion.
Now, ah, I saw the secretary of state briefly that evening after immediately after I got off the place, and ah ah subsequently the assistant secretary asked me to join the meeting of the ex-com of the National Security Council, which was to be held the next morning which, as I recall, was a Saturday, August 31.
Ahm. Ah, this was the first time I ever attended ah such an elevated meeting and ah I was, naturally, somewhat nervous and in it, ah ah I went into it without a great deal of preparation and quite tired still from my trip, and ah gave an account at the meeting as one of the numerous people talking at that meeting, which, by the way, was the last of a series that were held that entire week on the situation that was developing in Saigon
, and my account essentially was that Diem could not be rescued, that he had lost popular support and the popular mandate ah and that save a miracle, a coup would occur.
I recall a second go-round on the question of whether anybody still felt there would be a coup, because a coup had not occurred, even though it had been expected to, and I responded that I thought it would occur. And, ah, ah, in a, in a further opportunity to speak very briefly to the assembled leadership that was there, it included most of our top officials; ah the vice-president and Johnson chaired a meeting, secretary of state was there, the secretary of defense was there ah all the, General Taylor was there and key personalities involved with the issues were there.
Ah. I blurted out, perhaps it was imprudent for me to do it, but I blurted out, that we consider the possibility of withdrawing with honor, that this was, in other words, a time to review our stakes. This is what I meant to convey to the meeting. Ah. But, the response I got to it, was no, that we would go on and tough it out, as they called it, that we would see it through. It seemed to me always very unclear what it was precisely that we would see through, but ah, no consideration was given at that time at least, to the idea of withdrawing from Vietnam. Is that enough?