The Crime that lead to US defeat in Vietnam:
The majority of today’s Americans aren’t old enough to have an adult memory of the Vietnam War from its beginning in the 1960s to the Communists’ victory in 1975. However, most everybody is aware, even if it has never been and never will be officially acknowledged, that it was in Vietnam that the U.S. met its first defeat in a foreign war. Why were we defeated? The ultimate reason is laid out in a new book, The LostMandate of Heaven; The American Betrayal of Ngo DinhDiem, President of Vietnam, by military historian Geoffrey Shaw, with a foreword by James V. Schall, S.J., published by Ignatius Press.
The reason can be put briefly: The U.S. violated a civilizational principle so basic it didn’t have to wait for the advent of Christianity to be enunciated. Socrates had already done it. As expressed by Fr. Schall in his foreword: “It is never right to do wrong.”
The wrong in the case of the Vietnam War was perpetrated when American officials, believing that the installation of U.S.-style liberal democracy in the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) was the sure and necessary way to thwart the expansionist aggression of Communist North Vietnam, and seeing the country’s Catholic President Diem as the chief obstacle to its installation, instigated the overthrow of Diem in a bloody coup during which he and a brother were barbarously murdered. At least some of the officials must have realized that Diem would likely be killed, given the record of the particular Vietnamese doing the dirty work.
Who were the U.S. officials? President John Kennedy authorized the overthrow. Other key players included Averell Harriman, Roger Hilsman, and Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., all of them operating at the time from within the U.S. State Department.
Cabot Lodge is a name familiar to persons who know something of Boston and Massachusetts society and national politics in the first half of the twentieth century. Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., had been Richard Nixon’s running mate in Nixon’s failed 1960 election bid for the White House. He was the kind of Episcopalian New England patrician whose anti-Catholicism had less to do with the teachings of the Faith than with a sense of Anglo-Saxon and class superiority that saw Catholics (and Jews) as not as acceptable as one’s own kind regardless of how much money they had or public offices they occupied. He would never have stooped to saying, “Some of my best friends are Catholic.” Kennedy made him ambassador to Saigon, in which position he oversaw the coup against Diem on the Feast of All Souls, 1963.
No, it wasn’t U.S. troops on that day who seized the intensely devout Diem and his brother at Saigon’s Church of Saint Francis Xavier where they had just attended Mass, forced them into an armored personnel carrier, cut their gall bladders from their living bodies and then shot them. Neither did the U.S. officials who instigated and approved Diem’s overthrow ever quite utter words like “kill” or “execute” in their discussions, but his permanent elimination, one way or another, was intended. In other words, we are talking here about moral responsibility.
Lyndon Johnson, U.S. Vice President at the time of the killing and who was opposed to the overthrow when it was planned (as was CIA Saigon station chief and later CIA Director William Colby), assigned the responsibility where it belonged in a 1966 tape-recorded telephone conversation with U.S. Senator Eugene McCarthy (the reader can hear this for himself on YouTube): “We killed him. We all got together and got a goddamn bunch of thugs and we went in and assassinated him.”