From: Phan@tigger.stcloud.msus.edu (Dien Phan)
Subject: Was Diem unpopular? (Was: Christianity and US Policy)
Date: 7 Nov 1996 23:46:15 -0500
Topics: Ngo Dinh Diem; Kennedy, John F.; Duong Van Minh (Big Minh)
In email@example.com, Edwin E. Moise writes:
EM> Diem was a dictator, who had not been chosen by the people of South Vietnam.
EM> Since he knew he was never going to have to run in a free election, he felt
EM> little inhibition about antagonizing the non-Catholic majority in South Vietnam.
EM> He discriminated in favor of Catholics in a variety of government policies,
EM> some of them pretty important.
In the 1960s, the blacks in the US were discriminated against and to be the president you must be a party member (Democrat or Republican). Although legally you don't have to be a party member, but in reality it is so. In the communist world, you also must be a party member to be chairman or president. Despite some drawbacks, US still had a much better society than the rest of the world.
It is interesting to see the view "the grass is NOT greener on the other side" by both Americans and Vietnamese people during the Vietnam war. While Americans considered Diem an unpopular leader and thus a coup was justified, the Vietnamese people saw President JF Kennedy a sinner who disobeyed the ten commandment by committing adultery with Marilynn Monroe and plotting assassination of various world leaders, notably Fidel Castro. Many Vietnamese people also belive that LBJ was the suspect behind Kennedy's assassination . Both JFK and LBJ were from the wealthy class of America who wanted to expand the war as a mean to solve US economic surplus in the 60s. While most of these allegations were not truthful, when the Vietnamese heard massive rally in Washington D.C. chanting "Hey, hey, hey, LBJ, how many...?" in Washington DC, they were convinced that LBJ was also not popular among Americans. In reality LBJ and Nixon were running the Vietnam war like dictators, and both were hated by many Americans during the Vietnam war. Unfortunately, when the two unpopular governments decided to be allies the war could not be won.
While Diem was accused to be corrupt, he died with very little assets which include a small house. On the other hand, LBJ retired with a big wealth, from oil money and from US government properties. He ordered the US Defense department to remodel and add extra facilities to his private ranch in Texas.
Among Asian leaders, Diem was at the same level of dictatorship as Lee Kuang Yew of Singapore, Park Chung Hee of S. Korea, Chang Khai Sek in Taiwan, and was less repressive than Ho Chi Minh and Mao Te Tung. He was less corrupt than Marcos of the Philippines or Roh Tea Woo of S. Korea. Because of the well publicized Vietnam war he stood out as a sore thumb and thus received much bad publicity from people who wanted to justify the coup and US intervention.
Most American do not know how much the Vietnamese people appreciated and admired Diem in maintaining his independence under heavy pressure from the US. I recall that by 1970, Vietnamese people in Saigon began to hold annual memorial service for President Diem and confronted Gen. Big Minh for the execution.The appreciation of Diem contribution to the country increased significantly among the Vietnamese in exile after 1975. No one had any good words for the US installed military junta regime after 1963 but there were plenty for Diem. The most popular Vietnamese language journal, Van Nghe Tien Phong, ran special issues and headlines for President Diem's memorial for ten years after 1975. Many articles also condemn the US government for interfering with S. Vietnam's internal affairs in the 1960s. JFK particularly was blamed for the death of two million Vietnamese during the war.
President Diem was also received respect by Hanoi. After 1975, most of the bad publicity of South Vietnamese government was directed to the military junta who took power after 1963 and very little were toward Diem's. This year on July 7th 1996, the birthday anniversary of President Diem, El Chino the Great, one of the major writers who defend communist Vietnam's interests on many newsgroups, wrote an article on Soc.culture.vietnamese which praised Diem for his patriotic efforts in S. Vietnam and his noble independence position against the US.
So if Americans continue to believe Diem was not well liked by Vietnamese people, please let the Vietnamese people tell you that they don't think so. I was a little boy when President Diem was assassinated and thus have no personal interest on defending Diem, but I had to defend the truth. It is strange to see that the military generals and the Buddhist leaders, who overthrew the so called "repressive" Diem, went on massive revenge and executed all Diem's brothers along with many of his followers, after they surrendered, while the so called "cruel and repressive" communist spared the lives of these generals and Buddhist leaders after they surrendered in 1975.
Communist Vietnam also gave them (President Big Minh, Premier Vu Van Mau, et.al) free tickets to go to France to live in exile while these people had refused to do the same for Diem brothers in 1963.
President Diem was right in resisting US Policy Maker to decide the fate of Vietnam and US combat troops to die in the Vietnam war.
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