To Withrawal or not to Withdrawal... that is the question... (pun intended)
President Kennedy started the month of September, 1963 with a set of televised interviews with major television news anchors, Walter Cronkite of CBS News and Chet Huntley of NBC News. The interviews are a week apart and JFK gives two answers that historians wrestle over to the question about the future of Vietnam.
Interview with Walter Cronkite: September 2, 1963 for CBS News
MR. CRONKITE. Mr. President, the only hot war we've got running at the moment is of course the one in Viet-Nam, and we have our difficulties here, quite obviously.
PRESIDENT KENNEDY. I don't think that unless a greater effort is made by the Government to win popular support that the war can be won out there. In the final analysis, it is their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it. We can help them, we can give them equipment, we can send our men out there as advisers, but they have to win it—the people of Viet-Nam—against the Communists. We are prepared to continue to assist them, but I don't think that the war can be won unless the people support the effort, and, in my opinion, in the last 2 months the Government has gotten out of touch with the people.
The repressions against the Buddhists, we felt, were very unwise. Now all we can do is to make it very clear that we don't think this is the way to win. It is my hope that this will become increasingly obvious to the Government, that they will take steps to try to bring back popular support for this very essential struggle.
MR. CRONKITE. Do you think this Government has time to regain the support of the people?
PRESIDENT KENNEDY. I do. With changes in policy and perhaps with personnel, I think it can. If it doesn't make those changes, I would think that the chances of winning it would not be very good.
MR. CRONKITE. Hasn't every indication from Saigon been that President Diem has no intention of changing his pattern .
PRESIDENT KENNEDY. If he does not change it, of course, that is his decision. He has been there 10 years, and, as I say, he has carried this burden when he has been counted out on a number of occasions.
Our best judgment is that he can't be successful on this basis. We hope that he comes to see that; but in the final analysis it is the people end the Government itself who have to win or lose this struggle. All he can do is help, and we are making it very clear. But I don't agree with those who say we should withdraw. That would be a great mistake. That would be a great mistake. I know people don't like Americans to be engaged in this kind of an effort. Forty-seven Americans have been killed in combat with the enemy, but this is a very important struggle even though it is far away.
We took all this—made this effort to defend Europe. Now Europe is quite secure. We also have to participate—we may not like it—in the defense of Asia.
September 9, 1963 Interview on NBC News with Chet Huntley
MR. HUNTLEY. Mr. President, in respect to our difficulties in South Viet-Nam, could it be that our Government tends occasionally to get locked into a policy or an attitude and then finds it difficult to alter or shift that policy ?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, that is true. I think in the case of South Viet Nam we have been dealing with a Government which is in control, has been in control for 10 years. In addition, we have felt for the last 2 years that the struggle against the Communists was going better. Since June, however—the difficulties with the Buddhists—we have been concerned about a deterioration, particularly in the Saigon area, which hasn't been felt greatly in the outlying areas but may spread. So we are faced with the problem of wanting to protect the area against the Communists. On the other hand, we have to deal with the Government there. That produces a kind of ambivalence in our efforts which exposes us to some criticism. We are using our influence to persuade the Government there to take those steps which will win back support. That takes some time, and we must be patient, we must persist.
Mr. HUNTLEY. Are we likely to reduce our aid to South Viet-Nam now?
The PRESIDENT. I don't think we think that would be helpful at this time. If you reduce your aid, it is possible you could have some effect upon the government structure there. On the other hand, you might have a situation which could bring about a collapse. Strongly in our mind is what happened in the case of China at the end of World War II, where China was lost—a weak government became increasingly unable to control events. We don't want that.
Mr. BRINKLEY. Mr. President, have You had any reason to doubt this so-called "domino theory," that if South Viet-Nam falls, the rest of Southeast Asia will go behind it ?
The PRESIDENT. No, I believe it. I believe it. I think that the struggle is close enough. China is so large, looms so high just beyond the frontiers, that if South Viet-Nam went, it would not only give them an improved geographic position for a guerrilla assault on Malaya but would also Live the impression that the wave of the future in Southeast Asia was China and the Communists. So I believe it.
Mr. BRINKLEY. In the last 48 hours there have been a great many conflicting reports from there about what the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] was up to. Can you give us any enlightenment on it?
The PRESIDENT. No.
Mr. HUNTLEY. Does the CIA tend to make its own policy ? That seems to be the debate here.
The PRESIDENT. No, that is the frequent charge, but that isn't so. Mr. [John A.] McCone, head of the CIA, sits in the National Security Council. We have had a number of meetings in the past few days about events in South Viet-Nam. Mr. McCone participated in every one, and the CIA coordinates its efforts with the State Department and the Defense Department.
Mr. BRINKLEY. With so much of our prestige, money, so on, committed in South Viet-Nam, why can't we exercise a little more influence there, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT. We have some influence. We have some influence and we are attempting to carry it out. I think we don't—we can't expect these countries to do everything the way we want to do them" They have their own interest, their own personalities, their own tradition. We can't make everyone in our image, and there are a good many people who don't want to go in our image. In addition, we have ancient struggles between countries. In the case of India and Pakistan, we wound like to have them settle Kashmir. That is our view of the best way to defend the subcontinent against communism. But that struggle between India and Pakistan is more important to a good many people in that area than the struggle against the Communists. We would like to have Cambodia, Thailand, and South Viet-Nam all in harmony, but there are ancient differences there. We can't make the world over, but we can influence the world. The fact of the matter is that with the assistance of the United States and SEATO [Southeast Asia Treaty Organization], Southeast Asia and indeed all of Asia has been maintained independent against a powerful forces the Chinese Communists. What I am concerned about is that Americans will get impatient and say, because they don't like events in Southeast Asia or they don't like the Government in Saigon, that we should withdraw. That only makes it easy for the Communists. I think we should stay
We should use our influence in as effective a way as we can, but we should not withdraw.
So the debate rages... However, in my opinion JFK was speaking to the news media and sending a political message to the Communists in China, the Diem Government, his own National Security Team including the CIA as well as the American electorate, as Vietnam would certianly be an important topic in the coming Presidential Election of 1964. There were the public statements and there were the private statements:
During a meeting on September 10, 1963 regarding the civil war in Vietnam, President Kennedy expressed frustration with the conflicting reports provided to him by his military and diplomatic advisors and asked them to explain why their eye-witness accounts contrast so widely. General Victor Krulak and State Department Advisor Joseph Mendenhall were reporting to the President on their four day fact-finding mission to South Vietnam. Krulak’s view, based on his visits with military leaders was generally optimistic while Mendenhall, a Foreign Service Officer, shared his impressions of widespread military and social discontent.
According to the meeting minutes Krulak was on record as stating that “the Viet Cong war will be won (by the United States) if the current US military and sociological programs are pursued.” Meanwhile Mendenhall replied, “The people I talked to in the government when I asked them about the war against the VC, they said that is secondary now – our first concern is, in effect, in a war with the regime here in Saigon. (pause). There are increasing reports in Saigon and in Hue as well that students are talking of moving over to the Viet Cong side.”
These vastly different viewpoints caused President Kennedy to pause and then comment: “You both went to the same country?”
After nervous laughter, the President continued, “I mean how is that you get such different - this is not a new thing, this is what we’ve been dealing with for three weeks. On the one hand you get the military saying the war is going better and on the other hand you get the political (opinion) with its deterioration is affecting the military …What is the reason for the difference – I’d like to have an explanation what the reason is for the difference.”
The American government had long been a supporter of South Vietnam President Ngo Dinh Diem but policy makers were growing frustrated over the influence of Diem’s brother Ngo Dinh Nhu and his wife, Madame Nhu. In August, a month prior to the recorded meeting released today, Cable 243 had been issued authorizing the U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam, Henry Cabot Lodge, to pressure Diem to remove his brother Nhu; if Diem refused, the US would explore the possibility of alternative leadership. The issuance of the controversial cable caused infighting among the diplomatic and military advisors of the Kennedy Administration, which continued during the autumn of 1963.
The September 10, 1963 meeting continued with a presentation by advisor Rufus Phillips, which suggested various counterinsurgency efforts. Remarking on these recommendations, former Vietnam Ambassador Frederick Nolting asked, “What do you think will be the result of this? … ‘Cause what I’m thinking about is what happens if you start this and you get a reaction as expected from those that you’re encouraging, do you then get a civil war or do you get a quiet palace revolution or what do you think we get?”
Phillips answered that he believed it was still possible to split the Nhus from President Diem. He then commented: “When someone says that this is a military war, and that this is a military judgment. I don’t believe you can say this about this war. This is essentially a political war…for men’s minds.”
At a meeting the following day on September 11, 1963, President Kennedy asked Defense Secretary Robert McNamara if he thought that Diem’s reign was viable long-term. McNamara answered, “Mr. President, I don’t believe I can forecast that far ahead. I believe strongly that as of today there has been no substantial weakening of the military effort. I don’t know what the future will hold. I strongly support Dean Rusk’s suggestion that we proceed carefully and slowly here and this is quite contrary to what Ambassador Lodge has recommended.”
September 20, 1963 - President Kennedy addresses the United Nations General Assembly: "...For the value of this body's work is not dependent on the existence of emergencies-nor can the winning of peace consist only of dramatic victories. Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures. And however undramatic the pursuit of peace, that pursuit must go on."
Later, President Kennedy decided to send Robert McNamara and General Maxwell Taylor to Vietnam. At the September 23, 1963 meeting, as Taylor and McNamara are about to start their mission, the President stated his hope that, based on what the two find, the US could “come to some final conclusion as to whether …they’re (Diem and Nhu) going to be in power for some time…and whether there is anything we can do to influence them or do we stop thinking about that.”
At a Cabinet meeting that same day, Undersecretary of State George Ball commented to the President on Vietnam, “It’s not an easy situation … what we want to do is to see if we can bring the situation about where the war can continue successfully and come at some point to a conclusion, because we don’t want to be bogged down in Southeast Asia forever.”
As September, 1963 drew to a close, the Vietnam debate raged on inside the Kennedy White House and reverberated through all the various Corridors of Power. Actions were being taken, unseen, and mostly unspoken, to change the course of history... or for some, take the wheel of the Ship of State into their own hands.
At the end of September, President Kennedy embarked on a 'Conservation Tour' and visited Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Washington, Utah, Oregon, California, and Nevada. Here is an example of him on this tour:
There are some hilariously sad photographic attempts to 'prove' Oswald was in Mexico and trying to get a Cuban Passport... but by the time that kind of proof was needed. There would be no investigation. And the Press, who once and to this day claim they loved JFK, are to blame as well as those that plotted and carried out and covered-up the assassination.
Here is some bullshit Warren Commission timeline of Lee Harvey Oswald for September, 1963:
September 17, 1963: LHO obtains a tourist card good for one visit to Mexico City from the Mexican consulate in New Orleans.
September 20, 1963: Ruth visits the Oswalds, and it is decided that Marina will return to Irving with Ruth for the birth of the baby.
September 23, 1963: Ruth and Marina leave for Irving.
September 24, 1963: Eric Rogers, a neighbor, sees LHO running to catch a bus.
September 25, 1963: LHO collects his unemployment check of $33. Later, he catches a bus bound for Houston. Late that night, he places a phone call to Horace Twiford, an official of the Texas Socialist Labor Party.
September 26, 1963 Early in the morning, LHO boards a bus for Laredo, Texas. He crosses the border into Mexico in the early afternoon.
2:15 PM: At Nuevo Laredo, LHO boards a bus for Mexico City.
September 27, 1963 10:00 AM: LHO arrives in Mexico City.
11:00 AM: LHO registers at the Hotel del Comercio, where he will stay for the duration of his visit.
11:30 AM: LHO makes his first visit to the Cuban Embassy, where he fills out the
application for a visa to Cuba. In the afternoon, LHO returns with passport photographs he had obtained. When LHO is told that the visa could take up to four months and was not possible without a Russian visa as well, he becomes angry. He walks a short distance to the Russian Embassy to inquire about a visa to Russia and is put off until the next day.
September 28, 1963 LHO returns to both the Cuban and the Russian Embassies with no success.
September 29, 1963 LHO probably attends a bullfight on this, a Sunday.
September 30, 1963 LHO phones the Russian Embassy one last time with no success. Later, he buys a bus ticket from Mexico City to Laredo, Texas.
So by September, 1963 the conspiracy is set in motion, Lee Harvey Oswald is being set up. A great, unanswered question is: Why him?
Who was Lee Harvey Oswald and why was he selected to be the patsy?
Who selected him, because obviously someone had made that decision already and was busy creating false evidence.
At the end of September, 1963 President Kennedy had less than two months to live.