10/11/06 - a coup in vietnam

In today's excerpt - Kennedy, 1963 and a coup in South Vietnam:

"Rebel troops overthrew the South Vietnamese government in Saigon that same November 1, assassinating President Diem ... The bloody coup shocked many Americans into an unsettling first awareness of the Vietnam War, as news accounts speculated delicately but persistently about clandestine U.S. support for the revolt. ... Vietnamese soldiers had killed monks and civilians in Hue to enforce a government order prohibiting the display of Buddhist colors on Buddha's birthday. Buddhist protests had seized world attention a month later ... when a monk named Trich Quan Duc publicly immolated himself in downtown Saigon. Vietnam's Catholic rulers contemptuously dismissed a string of later suicides as 'Buddhist barbecues' inspired by the communist enemy.

"Americans awakening to the Vietnam crisis puzzled over the conduct on both sides. Given the overwhelmingly Buddhist population, it was as though a Jewish U.S. president had forcibly suppressed Christmas as a Communist conspiracy. ... Kennedy Administration officials ... 'decided long ago' wrote Max Frankel in the Times 'to discuss it as little as possible.' Privately, however, they split over the most divisive internal question of the entire Administration: whether it was moral democratic or necessary to overthrow Diem in order to preserve a war against tyranny in Vietnam. 'My government's coming apart!' President Kennedy had exclaimed on the day before the [Martin Luther King] March on Washington. Two days later, his ambassador in Saigon cabled that the course was set toward a coup: 'There is no turning back.' All through September and October, the secret cable traffic had flopped erratically between excited hopes of imminent success and bouts of bloody remorse like speeches from MacBeth. When it was over, U.S. officials tried to make the best of a fresh start with a new Vietnamese regime of French-educated Catholic generals."


Taylor Branch


Parting the Waters: America in the King Years


Simon & Schuster Paperbacks


Copyright 1988 by Taylor Branch


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