had backed, had failed to undercut the appeal of the Viet Minh. Eisenhower was convinced that the French could not win the war because of Vietnam’s political situation. “I have never talked or corresponded with a person knowledgeable in Indochinese affairs who did not agree that had elections been held as of the time of the fighting, possibly 80% of the populace would have voted for the communist Ho Chi Minh as their leader rather than chief of state Bao Dai,” Eisenhower said. The fact that the United States declined to be involved further at this point undercut that minority of French leaders who wanted to continue a war that the majority of the French population had opposed for years. With the decisive defeat at Dien Bien Phu, the French sued for peace at a conference in Geneva in the spring of 1954. The negotiations began on May 8, 1954, one day after the fall of Dien Bien Phu, and were concluded on July 21. On the day the armistice agreements were signed between the French and Viet Minh, the Geneva conference ended with a “final declaration” which obligated the signatories \(not including the US or South stipulations: 1.Laos and Cambodia were not to request foreign military aid except for self-defense. 2.The military demarcation line in Vietnam as constituting a political or territorial boundary.” 3.General elections were to be held in Vietnam in July, 1956, “under the supervision of an international commission composed of representatives of the member states of the International Supervisory [Control] Commission.” Consultations on the elections were to be held “from April 20, 1955, onwards.” 4.The signatories were to “respect the sovereignty, the independence, the unity, and the territorial integrity of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam and “refrain from any interference in their internal affairs.” WHILE HO Chi Minh as a leader of the Viet Minh was fighting a revolution against French colonialists for all Vietnam, there was another Vietnamese, Ngo Dinh Diem, a Roman Catholic, who was lobbying in Paris and Washington for an independent Vietnam with western backing. Diem had been destined, by family position and training, for service in the Mandarite, the feudal administrative apparatus that had always governed Vietnam and which the French bent to their own purposes. He belonged to that group of officials who believed in the traditional Vietnamese monarchy and the Mandarin hierarchy that served it. The Mandarite hoped for eventual independence, but sought the moderate path of reform from within the French colonial hierarchy. One of the first prominent Americans to take notice of Diem was Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. He had traveled through Vietnam and in his book North from Malaya, published in 1952, Douglas stated: “Ngo Dinh Diem is revered by the Vietnamese because he is honest and independent and stood firm against the French influence.” But Douglas admitted that “there is little doubt 4 The Texas Observer that in any popularity contest, Ho Chi Minh would still lead the field.” Douglas arranged a breakfast meeting at which he introduced Diem to Senators Mike Mansfield and John F. Kennedy. Mansfield was to become the Senate’s leading authority on Vietnam and as majority leader was an important architect of the Kennedy administration’s Vietnam policy some seven years later. During this earlier period, 1951-’54, Mansfield and Kennedy became arch-critics of the French role in Vietnam and proponents of an independent nationalist alternative. To them, Diem appeared to be that alternative. In a widely-quoted speech delivered in FAGAN DICKSON the Senate on April 6, 1954, just prior to the negotiations at Geneva, Senator Kennedy offered a pointed critique of the Eisenhower Vietnam policy. He feared the Republicans might permit a negotiated peace leading to a compromise government in which Ho Chi Minh would be represented. He opposed Ho’s participation in the governing of Vietnam, while conceding Ho’s popular support: “It should be apparent that the popularity and prevalence of Ho Chi Minh and his following throughout Indochina would cause either partition or a coalition government to result in eventual domination by the communists,” Kennedy said. He recommended that we force the French to grant independence to Vietnam, form an independent government that excluded the Viet Minh, support that government’s army, and “whenever necessary . . . [make] some commitment of our manpower.” It was a strong attack on-French colonialism, but it made no gesture toward self-determination for the Vietnamese. The future President’s concern was “for the security of the free world, and for the values and institutions which are held dear in France and throughout the non-communist world, as well as in the United States.” Diem had previously encountered Wes ley Fishel in Japan in 1950. Fishel was an assistant professor of political science at UCLA but he was moving to Michigan State University. He persuaded Michigan State University to finance a trip for Diem to the United States and Diem spent a considerable part of the next three years in the United States. DIEM’S BROTHER, Bishop Can, was an important contact with the American Catholic Church, and Diem lived for some time in the Maryknoll Seminaries in New Jersey and New York State. The New York school was under the jurisdiction of Francis Cardinal Spellman; Diem soon developed a close relationship with this important American Catholic. The cardinal became one of Diem’s most influential backers in the United States and there is no doubt that this support was crucial, for, among other things, it certified Diem as an important anti-communistno small matter during the McCarthy period. One of the first voices raised publicly on behalf of a “hard line” of all-out support for Diem was that of Cardinal Spellman. In a speech before the American Legion convention on August 31, 1954, he was quoted by The New York Times: If Geneva and what was agreed upon there means anything at all, it means . . . Taps for the buried hopes of freedom in Southeast Asia! Taps for the newly-betrayed millions of Indochinese who must now learn the awful facts of slavery from their eager communist masters! Now the devilish techniques of brainwashing, forced confession, and rigged trials have a new locale for their exercise. Spellman emphasized the essential theses of the cold war containment policy: “Communism has a world plan and it has been following a carefully set-up time table for the achievement of that plan . . . ” He spoke of “the infamies and agonies inflicted upon the hapless victims of Red Russia’s bestial tyranny.” A show of strength was required, he said, ” . . . else we shall risk bartering our liberties for lunacies, betraying the sacred trust of our forefathers, becoming serfs and slaves to Red rulers’ godless goons.” The danger lay in the illusion of peace with the communists: “Americans must not be lulled into sleep by indifference nor be beguiled by the prospect of peaceful coexistence with communists. How can there be peaceful coexistence between two parties if one of them is continually clawing at the throat of the other . . . ? Do you peacefully coexist with men who thus would train the youth of their godless, Red world . . . ?” The cardinal demonstrated his support of Diem by going to Vietnam to deliver personally the first check for Catholic Relief Services funds spent in Vietnam. CARDINAL SPELLMAN sent an emissary, Joseph Buttinger, an ex-Austrian socialist, who had spent some three months in Vietnam and was friendly to the men around Diem, to Washington to meet with Joseph P. Kennedy, the Senator’s father. In a long distance telephone
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