The Dulles Brothers Tackle Ho Chi Min

Posted on February 14th, 2015 in War by Robert Miller
Ngo Dinh Diem with Eisenhower and Foster Dulles at the Washington Airport; he was installed as the President of Vietnam with support from the CIA, but was assassinated in 1963 supported by the CIA who had by then had grown tired of his leadership

Ngo Dinh Diem with Eisenhower and Foster Dulles at the Washington Airport; he was installed as the President of Vietnam with support from the CIA, but was assassinated in 1963 supported by the CIA who had by then had grown tired of his leadership which had produced a Buddhist crisis

Allen Dulles could not contain himself; he and his brother had overthrown two governments in the space of 10 months and he had to tell someone. In the summer of 1954 he invited two reporters from the Saturday Evening Post (preselected to have drunk the “Kool-Aid”) and took them into his confidence. Through these two reporters, he gave the world an account of his first year on the job. The resulting publication emerged as a three part series entitled “The Mysterious Doings of the CIA,” by  Richard and Gladys Harkness. The opening page of this article had the comment “The Post presents its own exclusive report on America’s ‘silent service’ the super-secret Central Intelligence Agency,” below which was a large photo of Allen and below that appeared “Here, revealed for the first time, are its methods, how it gets its operatives and money and its accomplishments—in Guatemala, Iran, and behind the Iron Curtain”(the behind the iron curtain story comes later).

1954 was also the year that the French garrison at Dien Bien Phu in South Vietnam was defeated in a brutal battle. Unknown to most Americans is the fact that the United States was underwriting 80 per cent of the French costs in Vietnam in order for the French to remain as a colonial power in Southeast Asia (FDR didn’t want the French to be permitted back into Southeast Asia). Eisenhower justified this support of French colonialism in August 1953 when he said “then the United States votes $400,000,000 to help that war, we are not voting a giveaway program. We are voting for the cheapest way that we can to prevent the occurrence of something that would be of a most terrible significance to the United States of America, our security, our power and the ability to get certain things we need from the riches of Indonesia territory from Southeast Asia.” It didn’t matter to the reporters in the room that Eisenhower was admitting that the real mission in Vietnam was exploitation of the country for its resources, rather than fighting Communism.  Eisenhower also advanced the domino theory that if South Vietnam fell, the entire Southeast Asia would fall to the Communists and ultimately threaten Japan. The U.S. News & World Report eliminated the rhetoric by stating, “one of the world’s richest areas is open to the winner in Indochina. That’s behind growing U.S. concern…tin, rubber, rice, key strategic raw materials are what the war is really about. The U.S. sees it as a place to hold—at any cost.”

As the battle at Dien Bien Phu raged on, Pentagon officials drew up plans for Operation Vulture, an air campaign against Viet Minh positions. They also discussed the possibility of using two or three atomic bombs, but the French promptly rejected the offer fearing for the lives of their own soldiers (this too testifies to the radical psychology that had gripped our military leaders, seemingly unaware of the dangers of radiation, driven by the “bomb culture” that consumed the United States after WW II: we told ourselves that we were invincible and behaved that way).  On May 7, after fifty-six days, the French garrison fell and with it French colonialism in Asia was terminated; at that moment the French Vietnam War became the American Vietnam War in which 58,220 American soldiers would be killed before we were defeated in 1975.

After the French garrison fell, representatives of the United States, France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union and China met in Geneva. Foster Dulles appeared just long enough to irritate the others in attendance; he refused to shake hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Zhou Enlai and would not sit near any member of the Communist delegation, causing British Foreign Minister Anthony Edin’s secretary to proclaim his “almost pathological sense of rage and gloom.” At that meeting the Viet Minh succumbed to Chinese and Soviet pressure and agreed to divide the country at the 17th parallel, with Ho’s forces withdrawing to the north and French-backed forces moving to the South. As part of the agreement a national election was to be held in July, 1956 which would result in a uniform government for all of Vietnam. The United States refused to sign the agreement but promised not to interfere with the election, all the while planning how to undermine it. At that time Boa Dai was in charge of the South; he was generally scorned as a French puppet while Ho Chi Min in the north was regarded as a national hero: if an election was held then there was no doubt who would win it.

The Americans were not finished. As the French prepared to leave Vietnam, Americans maneuvered to replace Boa Dai with Ngo Dinh Diem, a conservative Catholic. With the aid of CIA agent Edward Lansdale Diem was installed and wasted no time in crushing his rivals and unleashing a wave of terror against former Viet Minh members in the south, thousands of whom were executed. Diem received strong support from the American government as well as Senators Mike Mansfield, Hubert Humphrey and John F. Kennedy. To them it did not seem odd to have a Catholic running a Buddhist country for they too, at the time had sipped the Kool-Aid.

With United States backing, Diem cancelled the 1956 election that would have resulted in unification of the country under Communist, led by Ho Chi Min; but what brand of Communism was it? The Viet Minh had been fighting the French before the Russian revolution, but through the lens of the Americans, every Communist country, no matter what its history was evil: the very words ignited a guttural reaction from the American government, but especially from Foster and Allen Dulles who delighted in using that as cover for the development of business interests that served globalization.

Diem was assassinated in 1963 by the American government, specifically by the military assistant to Henry Cabot Lodge Jr, the ambassador to South Vietnam . When Ho Chi Min heard of the assassination he said [from Wikipedia] “I can scarcely believe the Americans would be so stupid.” The North Vietnamese Politburo was more explicit:

“The consequences of the 1 November coup d’état will be contrary to the calculations of the U.S. imperialists … Diem was one of the strongest individuals resisting the people and Communism. Everything that could be done in an attempt to crush the revolution was carried out by Diem. Diem was one of the most competent lackeys of the U.S. imperialists  … Among the anti-Communists in South Vietnam or exiled in other countries, no one has sufficient political assets and abilities to cause others to obey. Therefore, the lackey administration cannot be stabilized. The coup d’état on 1 November 1963 will not be the last.”

The rest as we say is history. Every reader knows something about the Vietnam War. It is indelibly imprinted in the minds of those who lived through it as a conflict that permanently divided America, especially once the Pentagon Papers were published on the front page of the New York Times in 1971. It is mind-numbing to count up all the deaths that germinated from the Vietnam War; the numbers go into the millions. It is equally mind-numbing to consider what an alternative approach might have looked like. Had we envisioned Vietnam from a more longitudinal perspective, we might have concluded that it’s best to make the peasants and poor farmers into consuming customers, then we would have our cake and eat it too. Only seven years after the Vietnam War, that is what we did when we opened up to China. That too is another story.


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