Document:CIA Planned Coup
CIA Financing Planned Coup D'Etat
Planned for Aug. 28; Falls Flat, Stillborn
For some weeks as the Xa Loi anti-government campaign grew, the rumours of coup d’etats became more frequent and abundant. It was well known that the Communists were exploiting the Xa Loi campaign in an effort to topple the Vietnamese Government, and there were constant rumours that C.I.A. was also supporting it.
Now as the story comes out, it is revealed that C.I.A. agents in the political section of the U.S. Embassy, the Public Safety Division of U.S.O.M. and the G2 section of M.A.A.G., with the assistance of well-paid military attaches from three other embassies, had prepared a detailed plan for the overthrow of the Vietnamese Government. The C.I.A. plan, it is said, had the blessing of high officials in the “distressed” State Department.
It is also said Vietnamese authorities seem to be well aware of C.I.A. efforts to help build the political agitation of the “Buddhist Affair” to a point of popular confusion and hysteria which would be fertile ground for the planned coup d’etat of the unofficially official American organization.
Beginning in January of this year, it is reported American secret agency “experts” who successfully engineered the coup d’etats in Turkey, Guatemala, Korea, and failed in Iran and Cuba, began arriving in Vietnam, taking up duties mostly in the U.S. Embassy, U.S.O.M., M.A.A.G., and various official and unofficial installations here. The Vietnamese Government, though seemingly well aware of all this, apparently could not believe such action was possible from allies and at a time with victory so near.
Rumours of their activities with student and religious and other private groups and clubs have long flown around the city. During the period in which U.S. Ambassador Nolting was on leave from May to July, the operators became more openly active, showing themselves in person at Xa Loi Pagoda to confer with agitators there.
But, certain foreign sources say, the young agent provocateurs showed their hands too brazenly in the attempt to prepare the military coup d’etat and revealed the plot. Naively believing the subjects of their bribes were anti-government, they poured money into the pockets of many, the sources say. The money is now spent from a budget which the U.S. Congress has no authority to audit, an affair which may bring much trouble and shame when the U.S. Congress takes a close look. The sources estimate the sum of money spent to overthrow the Vietnamese Government was between 10 and 21 million dollars.
The money was in three banks, it is reported: Bank of America, Hong-Kong-Shanghai Banking Corp., and Bank of Tokyo. U.S. banknotes under 50 dollar denominations were difficult to change on the black market on Saturday, and black market dealers who accepted small notes gives as much as 4 ps. per dollar less than the going rate of 1065 VN for bills of 50 and 100 dollar denominations.
By Sunday afternoon some black market currency dealers were refusing to buy dollars but were selling them at 1058 VN to the dollar.
The macabre outline of the plot in seven steps bears a sinister resemblance to the Communist tactics:
- Create unrest and discontent among the masses, provoking “religious”-inspired anti-government sentiment; sow discord among the population.
- Mobilize youth groups (a function of the C.I.A. agents in U.S.I.S. and U.S.O.M.) particularly the following groups: Boy Scout, Girl Scouts, Buddhist Youth, Buddhist student groups.
- Buy police, army, labor, and civil servants with three months advance salary and a bonus.
- Assure government officials that they will be allowed to stay in their present posts if they agree to resign when given the signal.
- While agitating in the different groups, provoke the government at the same time to commit mistakes such as killing innocent civilians or imprisoning large numbers of particular interest groups such as the youth.
- When confusion has reached its peak, make sure “representatives” of so-called “representative groups” – e.g., civil servants, army, etc; - present an ultimatum to the President to (a) resign or (b) to send his family into exile.
- If President resigns, a puppet government must be ready to take over – or a “military junta” prepared to take the reigns of government until elections can be held.
The 24 million dollar “budget” was earmarked, according to the same sources, as follows:
- Advance salaries for the army, police and civil servants
- Bonus for the same
- Further gratifications for the same if necessary
- Financing of the “Buddhist” organizations
- Financing of youth movements such as the “Voluntary Youths” (whose financing to date is reported to have come from “American sources”.
- Propaganda – including payment for “articles” by foreign correspondents in Vietnam
- Relief – assumed to mean a contingency fund for miscellaneous or unforeseen expenditures
The plan, it is said, was to install a puppet military junta before elections (formerly scheduled for the 31st of August but postponed after martial law was declared). The various and sundry politicians in exile were to be returned to Vietnam to form several political parties and prepare for elections. Nguyen Ton Hoan, at a press conference in New York last week, announced he had a government ready to bring to Vietnam. He is reported to have presented the list to Secretary of State Dean Rusk. Pham Huy Co of November 11 fame is reported also to be in the U.S. ready to cash in a change of governments.
But, Nguyen Ton Hoan’s list – according to several persons on the list – contains (end of page 1) the names of persons who have never even been consulted to give approval for their inscription on the list.
Some weeks ago the Radio Catinat rumor indicated the coup was to come between the 15th and 28th of this month. The Government and Army took action on August 21, but this plan continued, the sources say. The date scheduled for the coup was actually August 28, they report.
On August 29 a military intelligence source was quoted in a foreign wire service dispatch as reporting that President Diem would be stopping in Manila on that day – the 29th – en route to exile in a friendly country. Manila journalists were alerted to be at International Airport to see him on the stopover. Meanwhile President Ngo Dinh Diem was visiting marines on the Saigon River. Apparently the source was not alerted to the actual turn of events, or he leaked the “news” prematurely.
U.S. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge had been due to arrive on August 26. There were unconfirmed reports that the date was postponed to August 29. But, immediately after the August 21 action of President Ngo Dinh Diem and the Army, Lodge received orders to come immediately, arriving in Saigon on August 22.
Certain diplomatic sources in Saigon report that essentially the whole diplomatic corps was aware of the plan in general, if not in detail. All were alerted for the hour of 11pm on August 28, they report. But, at the last moment, it was postponed because the Vietnamese knew about it and were organised to face it and to resist to the end – even if it meant fighting in the streets of Saigon.
A number of foreign embassy representatives have expressed great concern, the foreign sources say, because they knew a coup attempt would result in bloody chaos in Saigon.
President De Gaulle was reported to have been indignant, because he knew the Vietnamese would never give in to such a coup easily and it could only create a situation which would profit the Communists.
But it seemed it was only when the CIA agents saw for themselves that the Tu Vu Thanh (Self-Defense Corps of the capital) of the Cong Hoa Youth – street combat specialists – were really organized to face the coup of the day, that they finally postponed their “coup”. They were well aware, whether they reported it to Washington or not, that in the elections of 57 strategic quarters of the capital, the Republican Youth had victories in 54 of the 57 quarters.
The new Ambassador has made no public declarations since his arrival, but has conferred with President Ngo Dinh Diem and with Counsellor Ngo Dinh Nhu. The Ambassador is faced with a most explosive and delicate situation, which some observers believe may turn out to have been as big a debacle as the Cuban affair. The State Department, they judge, has cut the rug from under Lodge’s feet by speaking so precipitously to “deplore” the Vietnamese Government for action which has proven to have been an extremely wise move. If State Dept. had maintained silence until Lodge had time to send away the agent provocateurs among his personnel here and “fix things up” with the Vietnamese Government before the State Department took an open public position on the actions of August 21, it could have saved much face for itself.
But apparently the CIA operators had so greatly misjudged the popularity and strength of the Ngo Dinh Diem Government that Washington was convinced there was going to be a change of government here.
In the meantime, the U.S. public – through foreign press reports based on U.S. “intelligence” assessments, was readied to accept the planned term of events. Ambassador Nolting’s and General Harkins’ statements of optimism and support have for some months been discredited and toned down by the U.S. press here, often with quotes from junior officers who disagreed with their chiefs.
The CIA crowd has obviously prepared well to undercut any sound Lodge policy which develop as they undercut that of Nolting.
Since the monstrous flub – realising at last that they do not have the Vietnamese people with them – the agitation and plotting continues all the same, both foreign and Vietnamese sources say.
In an effort to revive the “religious” character of the crisis, there is now a reported plan underfoot to murder the Thich Thien Hoa newly appointed head of the Buddhist group; Cao Hoal Sang of the Cao Dai sect; and several leaders of the Hoa Hao sects. Next step would be the assassination of Monsigneur Ngo Dinh Thuc himself which the plotters would term a “reprisal” of non-Catholic patriots.
The Archbishop is indeed feared for his well-known fearlessness and dynamism.
As for Counsellor and Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu, the plotters want only exile for them for the time being, because they know well that if they were murdered it would provoke a bloodbath of reprisals.
A threatening side-issue in the pumped-up “religious” affair is reported to be a campaign to encourage the Highlanders – trained by U.S. Special Forces – to desert the national cause. “Intelligence” sources have for some time been telling the press that “Who controls the Highlands, controls Vietnam.”
The CIA group which is reported to have complete control of U.S.I.S., is said to have gone “underground” and to be clandestinely calling on the Armed Forces of the Republic to demonstrate and to provoke the several-times postponed coup d’etat.
As late as Saturday evening, AFRS radio station was broadcasting 30 second spot lectures on such subjects as “majority rule” and explaining in a sarcastic tone that majority rule meant “respect” for the activities of “minorities”.
On Sunday, one agent said angrily “Nhu won the first round. But just wait for the second round.”
Said one Vietnamese government official – “The U.S. press summaries get to Xa Lol two days earlier than I could get them. I can only think of one source for their information.”
As things appear, the plotters momentarily seem to have abandoned the idea of a coup d’etat, but still cling to the purpose of creating unrest under whatever label they can ????, counting on diplomatic immunity to go on untouched in their activities to topple the Government.
The State Department, now faced with an embarrassing dilemma created by gross errors of assessment of the situation here, has the choice of doing an about face or losing plenty of face – and maybe both.
The millions of Americans who believe in the freedom and national integrity their government preaches are in for a big disillusionment if their government does not soon denounce the sinister cynics who almost turned Vietnam over to the Communists. And some observers on the scene are wondering whether the whole fiasco is a desperate effort of those who helped to lose Cuba for the Free World to try to recoup their loss of face by taking control of Vietnam in time to proclaim her victory as their own.
But this is not the American way, as American citizens have been brought up to understand it. And, once revealed, the American people will without any doubt turn their wrath for this fiasco on those who have betrayed their ideals.
The U.S. Congress – watchdog of the American dream – is still there. And they are not likely to accept lightly the betrayals of all the ideals of which they are the guardians – among the most precious of which is self-determination of peoples in freedom.
There is one more factor in Vietnam’s favor. U.S. Congressmen are also political realists, and it won’t take long for most of them to see the realities of the situation in Vietnam once the facts are placed before them.
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