I'd like to get into this famous and controversial telegram of August 24, 1963 which you've described, but of course you haven't done it on camera. Could you tell us about that from how it all came about and your role or lack of role in it, the famous telegram that s...
The Buddhist developments in Saigon
were a great concern in official circles. It became a major topic in the press. You recall the headlines and pictures and so on...giving the impression the whole place was coming apart. And so there were questions, what are you going to do about this.
Well, by that time the anti Diem group in government which had been building up slowly was very strong and there were...many were saying that just, we said last year we can't get...we can't move forward with Diem, we must get rid of Diem. And then those of my inclination said well, Diem isn't...isn't satisfactory.
But for heavens sake let's find...let's get somebody better or at least as good before we change. Well, that resulted in a sort of stalemate here in the council of the president. He held the same feelings, he had the uncertainties on both sides of the argument, but what are we going to do about it.
Um, mean, so...I'm trying to get the order of events, you know...the first steps were what you might expect, putting more pressure on Diem to change his ways because it appeared that the Buddhists were reacting and the support...the popular support, such as they got was a result of the...what was called the tyrannical control of Diem and his unwillingness to share power with anyone other than his brother Nhu and a few other people.
So let's...let's try to get him to change. And furthermore, the feeling was that the police were getting unduly brutal in putting down the Buddhist affair. So again let's tell him to lay off this thing. Use another method. Well, these were relayed to him by Nolting and the results were far from satisfactory.
And finally after one demonstration, Diem's police were extremely being brutal, either...at the time allegedly killed a number of people in Hue
and also a number in Saigon
. There was a great feeling that Diem was not following what we were doing, he was ignoring it and hence that we should be exploring possibilities in the military to see whether anyone would come forward and replace Diem.
So it was in that atmosphere that Cabot Lodge was sent over to Vietnam. He took no directive that I know of to change policy but he no sooner got there than he got the cable that you mention. That was the reaction of a group in Washington
to events which indicated that indeed Diem was flaunting our advice and going in the opposite direction in the brutal handling of the Buddhists. This cable was sent out as you know as the record shows...