Ngo Dinh Diem

From dKosopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Ngô Đình Diệm (approximately pronounced "Ngoh Din Jiem" was the first President of the Republic of Vietnam, a.k.a. South Vietnam. He served from 1955 until his assassination in a 1963 coup d'etat approved by the United States Embassy in Saigon. It is worth noting that according to the namings of Diệm's relatives, the family name for Diệm appears to be Ngô Đình, instead of the conventional Ngô. Ngô Đình Diệm never married and claimed that this was because of a failed romance with a young woman in his youth. His sister-in-law, Madame Nhu, was regarded as the First Lady of South Vietnam.

Contents

Bibliography

Diệm was born in Huế, the original capital of the Nguyễn Dynasty of Vietnam on November 21, 1963 to an elite family that was both Catholic and Confucian. Both traditions are evident in his decisions as a teenager to spend a year in a Catholic monastery at age 15 before enrolling in Hanoi's School of Public Administration. While serving as a provincial chief for the French colonial government he helped to repress communist inspired peasant revolts. In 1933 Diệm was appointed the Minister for the Interior in the French colonial puppet government of Emperor Bảo Đại. However he later resigned after publicly accusing the Emperor of being a "tool" of the French, something that was evident to everyone when he first accepted the position. He then spent the next twenty-one years as a very pious, unemployed critic of the regime that had once empoyed him. He was a fanatically anti-Buddhist and anti-communist. His elder brother, Ngo Dinh Thuc, was the archbishop of Hue. His younger brother was head of the regime's Can Lao political party/secret police network.

In 1945 Diem was deported to China following conflicts with nationalist, anti-colonial forces that were winning increasing populat support in Vietnam. After his release, he refused to join in the brief post-war government of Ho Chi Minh and went into exile in the United States. He returned to be appointed Prime Minister of South Vietnam by Emperor Bao Dai in 1954, following the French withdrawal. He rejected the 1954 Geneva Accord, which called for unification and elections in 1956; on October 26, 1955, in a disputed nationwide referendum, the nation's Roman Catholics voted to remove the Emperor Bao Dai as head of state and Diệm made himself the first President of the Republic of Vietnam. Led by Roman Catholic priests, 700,000 Vietnamese Roman Catholics had moved south after 1954 and occupied areas just south of the 17th parallel, areas in the highlands occupied previously only by non-Vietnamese ethnic minorities, and in a clusre of villages just north of Saigon.

When the referendum was held, Diệm's troops guarded the polls and those who attempted to vote for the Emperor were assaulted. Diệm's detractors say that the fraud was obvious. In Saigon, for example, Diệm claimed more votes than there were registered voters in the entire area. Emperor Bao Dai was forced to abdicate rather than divide the country further and issued one last appeal for the country to unite under a democratic government. Diệm's American advisors were frustrated by this, as no one believed the long-absent former monarch could have posed much of a popular threat from his chateaux in France.

Diệm's rule was authoritarian, simulataneously puritanical and corrupt. Nepotism dtermined the selection of many senior positions in his government. His most trusted official was his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu, leader of the primary pro-Diệm political party. His brother's wife Madame Nhu was South Vietnam's First Lady and she led the way in Diệm's programs to reform Saigon society according to his own Catholic values. Brothels and opium dens were closed, divorce and abortion made illegal, and adultery laws were strengthened. State police were accused of assaulting Buddhists (the religious majority in the country). Diệm also won a street war with the forces of the gangster Le Van Vien, the notorious ruler of the Cholon brothels and gambling houses who had enjoyed special favors under the French and Bao Dai. Diệm was also passionately anti-Communist and many attribute rising sympathy for the PAVN-backed National Liberation Front (more commonly known as the Viet Cong) to his rule.

U.S. ties

Diệm forged a relationship with the United States for support, while retaining policies that were hostile toward the Buddhist majority and biased in favor of the minority Roman Catholic population (of which Diệm was a member). The United States supported Diệm out of concern that the North's Communist influence, growing more popular, would permeate South Vietnam. The U.S. government publicly worried that corruption in a democratic referendum would inevitably lead to the installation of a Communist government. Claims of corruption were merely political rhetoric, however. Hồ Chí Minh and his communist policies were popular, and Diệm was not. President Eisenhower himself commented that given a democratic election, a socialist government would no doubt win. The United States did not want South Vietnam to be ruled by a Communist government, and so the U.S. continued to provide Diệm with support, in spite of his weak rule and unpopularity.

Diệm's acquiescence to large-scale support by the United States ensured his political dominance, but also rendered his government subordinate to U.S. decision-making.

Diệm's ineffective land reforms are thought to have contributed to increasing popular support in the South for Hồ Chí Minh and his "reforms" in the North. Diệm also abused his power to support minority Catholics. The enforcement of his Catholic "moral values" was often unpopular and the Buddhist community resented the favoritism he showed to his fellow Catholics. While the U.S. had supported Diệm's rise to power, it grew frustrated by his desire for independence from U.S. command. The nominal U.S. support he retained was based on a situational allegiance only, and the U.S. grew increasingly wary of Diệm's ineffectiveness as President, just as Diệm and his family circle grew increasingly wary of U.S. intentions.

U.S. strategists had originally hoped that Diệm could be the charismatic equivalent of Hồ Chí Minh, and thus be a popular and viable counterweight to Hồ Chí Minh's popularity. As Diệm showed to be unsuited to role the U.S. had written for him, the opinions of these strategists began to change in the 1960s. U.S. planners complained, claiming to be annoyed that Diệm had not implemented land reforms to compete with the highly popular Communist program, and further claimed that the nepotism and corruption in his government was hurting the South Vietnamese cause.

Coup and assassination

When the regime turned on a protest by Buddhist monks in June 1963, the U.S. briefly halted the flow of aid.

A small number of monks had immolated themselves in public protest, and the U.S. grew intensely annoyed with Diệm's unpopular public image. In their defense, Diệm and Madame Nhu claimed that the Communists had infiltrated the Buddhist groups, and that their crackdown was in accordance with the agreed-upon anti-Communist policy. Madame Nhu infamously referred to the incident as a "barbequeing."

On orders from U.S. President John F. Kennedy, Henry Cabot Lodge, the American ambassador to South Vietnam, refused to meet with Diệm. Upon hearing that a coup d'etat was being designed by ARVN Generals led by General D??ng V?n Minh, the United States gave secret assurances to the general that the U.S. would not interfere. D??ng V?n Minh and his fellow plotters overthrew the government and executed President Diệm and his younger brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, on November 1, 1963. The United States publicly expressed shock and disappointment that Diệm had been killed.

When Madame Nhu, visiting the United States at the time, learned of the coup d'etat, she immediately suspected the United States. She later said, "Whoever has the Americans as allies does not need enemies." Madame Nhu went on to predict a dark future for Vietnam and that, by being involved in the coup, the troubles of the United States in Vietnam were only beginning.

Further Reading

  • Philip E. Catton. 2002. Diem's Final Failure: Prelude to America's War in Vietnam. Lawremce, KS: University Press of Kansas. ISBN 0700612203. (This is a somewhat sympathetic, less cartoonish portrayal of Diem).
  • For a discussion of the antipathy between Bao Dai and Ngo Dinh Diem see Seth Jacobs. 2004. America's Miracle Man in Vietnam: Ngo Dinh Diem, Religion, Race and U.S. Intervention in Southeast Asia. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. ISBN 0822334402.
  • Richard Reeves. 1994. President Kennedy: Profile of Power. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0671892894.
  • Francis X. Winters. 1997. The Year of the Hare: America in Vietnam, Janurary 25, 1963-February 15, 1968. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. ISBN 0820318744. Chapter 11, Ngo Dinh Diem: Mandarin on an Empty Throne. Pp. 153-165.
  • Eric R. Wolf. 1969. Peasant Wars of the Twentieth Century. Red River Books. ISBN 0806131969. Pp. 194-195. (Discussion of the minority Roman Catholic exodus south.)

External links

Personal tools