Turning. Marker. 541. Clap sticks.
Well, speaking of the...speaking of the crucial arguments, as I
considered them, crucial debates ah in the NSC in late
August and early September, which were the only ones I attended, I
should say a couple of things. Number one, I was no longer ambassador
and had no official position with respect to Vietnam. I was, however,
invited to those meetings by President Kennedy or Robert Kennedy, the Attorney General. Ah, or
through one of their people, because I had a point of view quite
different from what was being argued by the State Department.
Ah. And, what had, in fact, already been signaled to Senator Lodge. To... ahm...
excuse me. And, they wanted to hear this other side. Ah. At times the
argument, well, the discussion became hot and heavy. At times ah some
words were said ah by Mr. Harriman ah who on previous occasions I had found, and over
the years, a delightful friend, but he was very impatient with ah what I
had to say, and ah I think it has been reported and so there's no reason
not to, not to say that he would shout across the table and say shut up
when I was speaking. So much so that ah on one occasion I recall that
the president had to say Averell I want to hear what ah Nolting has to say.
Ah. These were meetings at which the majority of the State Department were
for a change. Ah. The reading of the CIA was against a change, although they were not in a policy
position. The reading of the military was against a change. Ah. The
reading of certain members of the White House staff were for a change.
That is, for a coup or change in American policy, which would likely
bring about a coup. I do not think the thing was well-coordinated. Ah.
Certainly, it was a, a series of meetings after which nobody quite knew
what the president wanted to do. Then, he made a talk, do you remember,
before ah Walter
Cronkite in which he said we might be ch, cha, calling for a
change in, in policy, and perhaps in personnel. Or, tha... not we would
be calling but they perhaps should make a change in policy and perhaps
These were indications ah of ah decided change and they were taken very
hard in Saigon
Another symbol, of course, was the asylum that was given Thich Tri Quang in the
US Embassy, and
tha—that symbol ah was very ah very strong. Ah. My own view was that
even at that point, ah, we would have done much better to stick with the
constitutional government or at the very least, to have let them know ah
that our policy was changing. I don't think it was fair, just, or
honorable to an ally of nine years ah to do this behind his back, and
ah, for myself, I am convinced that that change in policy at the end of
administration was the thing that got us locked into this
unnecessary and disastrous war.