The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Tony Coelho: the Dem Tom DeLay?
Not a name I'd heard of - tipped off by chance by a stray Washington Times Abramoff piece.
The Cliff Notes version provided here dates the GOP's push for a money-gathering structure to its post-Watergate dive in support in the 1974 Congressional elections:
Two conditions were important to the new push: (1) conservative and business fears that the Democrats were about to embark on a new round of liberal economic and social policies, and (2) GOP fears of permanent minority status. The party's concern reached fever pitch after the Watergate hearings and President Nixon's resignation. Guy Vander Jagt, named chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee in 1975, grasped the nature of the perceived crisis and understood that it could be turned to advantage.
Thence a boom in corporate and industry group PACs.
Stung by their loss of the presidency and control of the Senate in 1980, the Democrats decided to seek corporate PAC contributions aggressively. Rep. Tony Coelho (D Calif.) persuaded big Democratic financiers to contribute to the party's congressional fund and at the same time helped the Democrats to organize more effectively to solicit corporate PAC donations.
Both major parties and politicians within each party established "clubs" to facilitate interaction between wealthy contributors and politicians.
It cites the DLC as an example.
"Access. Access," [Coelho] told columnist Elizabeth Drew, "that's the name of the game. They meet with the leadership and with the chairmen of the committees. We don't sell legislation: we sell the opportunity to be heard."
Comparing the take between the 1984 and 1986 elections,
...Democratic challengers and candidates for open seat races greatly increased their share of contributions from corporate, trade, and "nonconnected" PACs, while maintaining their near monopoly on labor PACs. Democratic candidates' share of corporate contributions rose from only 8 percent in 1984 to 28 percent in the 1986 off-year elections.
It seems that Coelho took a starring role in Brooks Jackson's 1988 book Honest Graft, and then resigned over the acquisition of some junk bonds (officially through ill health) before becoming chairman of the Gore campaign in 1999 and then resigning (ill health again) .
And he dissed Kerry's 2004 campaign, too.
Such a large footprint for a guy whose existence I'd never registered before. Not the first, won't be the last...
(There's much more besides, evidently; this is merely for possible future reference.)
Monday, January 23, 2006
Excellent piece on Murrow
Noted for future reference: Nicholas Lemann's piece in the New Yorker (off the George Clooney movie, mostly) about Edward R Murrow (oft mentioned here).
A useful debunking of latter-day gilding of the lily: the liberal wet-dream of Saint Ed slaying the McCarthy dragon, for instance.
It points out that Murrow's anti-McCarthy pieces came after the Tail-Gunner had already cut his own throat by going after the Army; and were vastly more overtly political than anything possible from today's network news operations (eg the Killian memos).
And says that Murrow's TV journalism was essentially offered as a sop of quality to the FCC - though how realistic the threat was of FCC retaliation in the 1950s, I know not .
Vox clamantis in deserto, poor old bugger!
(He did, it seems, get to boff Pamela Churchill during the war, though. Not all gloom and doom, then...)
Sunday, January 22, 2006
The Herb Morrison Hindenburg recording
A page full of facts. (At least, they look like facts; though they could be just truthiness...)
Apparently, excerpts from Morrison's recording were played on the NBC Red and Blue networks (once each) on Friday May 7 1937, the day after the accident - and not played on either network again.
And these broadcasts were the first recordings that NBC had allowed to be played,
and I can count on my fingers the other times that NBC broadcast recordings--knowingly and unknowingly--until the middle of WW II.
(I remember from the Ed Murrow bio Prime Time reference to CBS's mania for exclusively live broadcasting. One can see the point that recording equipment was expensive and cumbersome. But, if you've actually got the kit...)
Which leads one to ask, why, if recordings were verboten, was Morrison making a recording in the first place? His station, WLS Chicago, could play it in its own time, presumably. Would they have been planning to 'syndicate' it to other NBC stations to spread the cost?
Much geeky goodness in the piece. (And, on old-time US radio, on the site in general, that I can see.)
(Morrison only died in 1989, apparently.)
Democratic skeletons: William Jefferson?
Clearly, the GOP will be looking to visit blowback on the Dems for piling on on the Abramoff business. (Though this indicates that the ethics truce is still in operation, according to La Pelosi.)
Rep William Jefferson (LA-2) is a clear candidate. This suggests that his argument against a Federal bribery or gratuity charge (18 USC 201(b) and (c) respectively) may well be that the deal in question was a private affair, and that there was no official act of his that can be linked with the benefits he received (a key element of both offences ).
That may do him some good in court; but will surely cut little ice with public opinion  which the usual GOP suspects will be playing like a violon as the Abramoff thing hots up (with White House photos threatened, and more, no doubt, to come).
The Swift Boat-ers managed a tidy coup with outright lies against poor old John Kerry; Jefferson looks as if he's a genuine sleazebag, even if he does manage to wriggle off a Federal charge.
There always was a reason for the Dems to cleave to that ethics truce...
Truthiness - 'sup?
Frank Rich has combined Stephen Colbert's t-word with the name of arch-hatee of the left in a behind-the-wall piece (helpfully archived here) under hed Truthiness 101: From Frey to Alito.
He contrasts the successful efforts of Alito's GOP handlers to clothe him in a truthiness of Horatio Alger rise from adversity with the failure of the Judiciary Dems to make the Concerned Alumni of Princeton bigotry thing work for them. (A dire warning that truthiness will give way to evidence, if you're not careful: better not be truthy about stuff where the evidence is handy!)
(And, natch, Rich mentions that Oscar-winning blub of Mrs A.)
Rich says we live in the age of truthiness. But when didn't we? (As ever, with Golden Agers, there's no haste to identify a comparator period. Even more so when the Golden Age is merely alluded to, as by Rich. So much truthiness there...)
Doesn't the idea of truthiness go back, at the very latest, to Walter Lippman's Public Opinion? I've yet to get to the end of the etext - but, from what I gather, his thesis is that truthiness is the best we can get in mass communication.
Viewers and readers interpret the news they consume by reference to schemata formed of social conditioning to create stereotypes that they can handle without an actual appreciation of the facts of the matter in question.
Of zillions of examples, one famous one is the first Nixon-Kennedy debate in 1960. There, radio gave us the truth, TV the truthiness. Kinda.
Can they sell truthiness as being a new concept? Wouldn't that necessarily involve some - lying?
[I suspect this may be a case of a transpondian just not getting the gag. In which case...]
Saturday, January 21, 2006
LBJ and the FCC - still just scraps
If someone's written the story of that long and profitable (to LBJ) relationship, I've yet to track it down (even on the new, tantalising Google Books).
There a snippet in Radio Reader: Essays in the Cultural History of Radio by Hilmes and Loviglio (p372):
Citing alleged interference with San Antonio's clear-channel WOAI at 1200 and Texas A&M station at 1150, KTBC, backed with Johnson's political clout, sought and obtained a reallocation from the [FCC] to an uncluttered area at 590 AM, and in the late 1940s it increased its power to 5,000 watts, making it the most powerful station in the Austin area by far, with a daytime coverage area that blanketed thirty-eight countries, extending from Dallas to Corpus Christi.
That's a tad over 400 miles, according to Mapquest.
GB also flags a passage (p140) in Erik Barnouw's Tube of Plenty:
During the closing months of 1952, a number of new stations received a go-ahead. Among the first was KTBC-TV, Austin, Texas, licensed to Mrs Lyndon B Johnson, wife of the US Senator from Texas; before it even reached the air, advertising sales were such that Broadcasting magazine reported: "AUSTIN'S BRINGING IN A GUSHER."
Johnson's pocket was bulging with peckers...
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
That Diem closing still elusive
It seems simple enough: to track down exactly when, why and how USG decided to greenlight our friend Ngo Dinh Diem as leader of SVN. I noted on January 10 that Seth Jacobs' book on Diem says the papers on the decision are not yet declassified. But that's no necessary bar to there being decent steers on the record (Uncle Bob Woodward fills shelves-full of books with that sort of stuff!).
It's not, of course, enough to point to the goodly number of important friends that Diem had garnered during his sojourn in the US from 1950 on (Spellman, Mansfield, Kennedy, etc); these folks had nuisance value, but, so long as the Eisenhower administration found a puppet with staunch anticommunist credentials , it could surely have fought the Diem groupies off (the leading lights of the AFV, if that's any guide, were mostly (?) liberals and Democrats).
Or to the fact that Diem was top of the list of sixteen discussed at the May 10 1954 State Department analysts meeting (January 10 piece mentioned above).
Morgan in his Vietnam Lobby (earlier pieces - via Google Books) gives the initiative in the choice of Diem as that of Bao Dai, of all people (p9):
He instructed his representatives in Europe to contact American diplomats, and he decided to appoint Diem as the SVN's prime minister since "Washington would not spare him its support."
He goes on to say,
[State Department] records make no mention of direct American involvement in Diem's selection until May 1954. At that time, Ngo Dinh Luyen, a brother of Diem who claimed he was acting on behalf of Bao Dai, told American diplomats in Geneva of the emperor's intention to appoint Diem as premier if the United States supported Bao Dai's decision.
Following this approach, Douglas Dillon, ambassador in Paris,
...met with Diem in the following weeks and told Washington that Diem's "apparent sincerity, patriotic fervor and honesty are refreshing." He nevertheless expressed doubts about Diem's abilities, calling Diem a "yogi-like mystic" who "may have little to offer other than to reiterate that the solution to the Vietnamese problem depends on the assumption of increased responsibilities by [the] US."
Quite how well placed Dillon was to make an assessment of Diem's abilities I know not. I tend to doubt whether he had the materials by which to compare Diem with the other candidates for the job! An evaluation in the abstract might be thought less than useful - unless it was merely to give cover for a decision already made.
He goes on,
Members of the Eisenhower administration nonetheless favored Diem's candidacy. A military cable in early June reported that "Diem has received support and encouragement from American official quarters and this may be a reason why Bao Dai is considering him for the post."
There is some anecdotage in support of Dulles as Diem's main champion:
John W Hanes, one of Dulles's assistant, later claimed that the secretary of state's support for Diem was "rammed through single-handedly, through our intelligence and military communities." In his memoirs, Bao Dai mentioned a conversation he had with Dulles before asking Diem to act as premier, and in The Lost Crusade, Chester Cooper writes of a meeting between Dulles and Bao Dai that dealt with the role Diem would play in preventing a Viet Minh takeover of Vietnam.
And some more fingering the CIA:
Robert Amory, who served as the CIA's deputy director of intelligence in the 1950s, asserted that Justice Douglas had initially sparked the agency's interest in Diem. Another senior CIA officer, Richard Dissell, later recalled that the VIA was "deeply involved" in winning support for Diem. A few accounts have noted that Ambassador William J Donovan, the founder of the OSS, and Lieutenant Colonel Edward G Landsdale, a CIA operative, appeared in Saigon shortly after Ngo Dinh Nhu, another of Diem's brothers, organized the Front for National Salvation , a group that promoted Diem's candidacy.
Nhu as another of Diem's brothers indeed!
All in all, barely more than gossip.
The striking thing is how late, according to what I'm reading, the US started to contemplate a Plan B to deal with a French withdrawal from Indochina. The stuff that I've seen - the Pentagon Papers commentary, for instance - on the discussions (mostly in April 1954) within USG of possible US military intervention in support of Dien Bien Phu does not suggest that a twin track approach was then in operation. I find that hard to believe.
The May 10 meeting at State supports the idea that, whether or not a Plan B was in contemplation during the DBP discussions, actual decisions assuming a French loss had been put off .
The altogether weak and unsatisfactory treatment of question in Vietnam Lobby  suggests the Who chose Diem? question is currently beyond answering. I rather doubt that - but I think, for the moment, I'll leave it there.
Thursday, January 12, 2006
China Reporting interesting but mostly off the point
I've skimmed it (link downpage); it's mostly an oral history memoir of a great communal journalistic experience.
(Our friend from the Albert Colegrove saga, the Times' Tillman Durbin turns up, for one. Harrison Salisbury. A good many I'd never heard of.)
It's very much a reporter's eye view. There's stuff toward the end on relations with HQ which suggest that, a lot of the time, editors were convinced Joe Public wasn't that into China as a breakfast table topic.
(John Paton Davies, one of State's lost leaders (sez Halberstam in Best and Brightest), figures as a member of the Foreign Service in Hankow and Chungking; the Foreign Service and press guys seem to have been pretty pally until John Service got winkled out in the Amerasia farrago through having trusted in a journo.)
It's rather more relevant to another perennial topic here, the history of journalism. Limited nourishment here for any seeking to locate a Golden Age of American Journalism in the years leading up to Mao's victory in 1949!
For general interest, well worth a read. Rather a flavour of Evelyn Waugh's Scoop. They don't make them like that any more...
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
The American China romance - the Madame Chiang factor
I'd forgotten about this piece, which gives a flavour.
Many more pieces of the puzzle to come, I'm sure.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Another icon bites the dust?
Right and left, they all have them - and they come in all shapes and sizes. Rosa Parks and Terri Schiavo (who only became an icon years after she lost touch with the world), to name but two.
Generally, the stories associated with these icons are, at best, ones with which the facts are strictly prohibited from interfering. Or, more usually, a pack of lies.
Another left icon (the facts of whose life I know not, and thus do not speak to) is Cesar Chavez, founder of what eventually became the United Farm Workers union.
Miriam Pawel of the LA Times has a series running that places a bomb under both the UFW and its legendary founder. Under heds Farmworkers Reap Little as Union Strays From Its Roots , Linked Charities Bank on the Chavez Name and Decisions of Long Ago Shape the Union Today (one part of a four part series to come), she seems to have good stuff. The series title is UFW: A Broken Contract.
The unions in the US is a fascinating topic that I've touched on from time to time before (for instance, the truly evil CCPOA excited my ire for some time till I realised that Golden State citizens don't give a flying one about it), but more generally have been handicapped (not for the first time!) by a lack of actual knowledge.
If Pawel's work stands up, it might be something to come back to.
American exceptionalism has applied to its trade unions as much as anything else.
The growth of the AFL as a group of lily-white, craft-only unions, with industrial workers - miners, say - struggling to make much headway until the advent of the NRA's famous section 7(a) and (after NRA was held unconstutional), the Wagner Act; a spurt of activity - a Popular Front operation in the CIO, working to reelect FDR in states lacking a Tammany machine - and then having the rug pulled from under them by the full employment of the war years. And then Taft-Hartley, corruption, relocations to the hard-to-unionise South - all that jazz.
The unions should be a key element in Democratic Party politics and campaigning. Comparatively, you rarely hear talk of them in lefty circles online. The star of the SEIU's Andy Stern, Great White Hope of union revival and effective Dem linkage, seems to have slipped a bit since I was writing about him here last year. His profile on the lefty sites I've been looking at since my return to online seems more discreet than earlier bold talk might have suggested.
I have a feeling that there's a CW amongst lefty rags (Nation, American Prospect, etc) that union stories are both boring and unlikely to help the Dem cause. If so, they'd be half right.
That Diem selection process
Seth Jacobs (p48) comes through with the knowledge (some of it):
As David Anderson notes, the Eisenhower administration's most crucial Vietnam decisions were made after the fall of Dien Bien Phu. For all his circumspection when it came to committing US forces to a land war in Asia, Eisenhower had no intention of allowing Ho Chi Minh to seize all of Vietnam.
Clearly, the French were a broken reed. So holding the line would have to be entrusted to a native:
In [an NSC] meeting on 4 February 1954, over three months before the red flag was hoisted over Dien Bien Phu, CIA Director Allen Dulles complained that "there was no dynamism in the leadership of the Franco-Vietnamese forces." Eisenhower "interrupted" to "inquire if it would be possible to capitalize on the religious issue." Given that "most of the people of Vietnam were Buddhists," the president wondered whether the United States might "find a good Buddhist leader to whip up some real fervor." The sources of the next remark is unnamed, but he clearly voiced a shared sentiment. According to the minutes, "It was pointed out the president that, unhappily, Buddha was a pacifist rather than a fighter." This led to laughter. Vice President Richard Nixon then "expressed some doubt as to the strength and conviction with which the people of Vietnam clung to their religious views." Eisenhower replied that "he still believed that there was something in the idea of religious motivation. While conceding that Emperor Bao Dai was an unlikely guiding star for religious passions, Eisenhower "pointed out how Joan of Arc had managed to defeat a large enemy force and place a timid king upon his throne in France." Picking up on the Joan of Arc theme, Secretary of State Dulles remarked that "there were, of course, a million and a half Roman Catholics in Vietnam, and they included some of the best brains of the country." Eisenhower "suggested the Catholics be enlisted."
That such a deeply informed and impartial discussion should lead to the selection of Diem can scarcely be surprising!
(Subsequently, on April 13 1955 , the Operations Coordinating Board
an organization the historian James Arnold Calls Eisenhower's "principal source of information" on Southeast Asia in the second half of the 1950sproduced a report Recommendations Concerning Study of Religious Factors in International Strategy which looks as platitudinous as Ike, to judge from the quotes.
It was, it seems, the foundation of the US policy to rely on Catholics in Vietnam for anything that needed doing around the place. Like fighting Communists.
Not all soi-disant Catholics embodied the paradigm suggested. But
Although neither Diem nor any other American ally was identified by name in the report, the South Vietnamese premier's celibacy, Spartan lifestyle, and repeated declarations of loyalty to the Catholic Church conformed nicely to the OCB's stipulations.
The substantive question not addressed is, of course: Were there any Buddhists who could plausibly have taken Diem's place, had USG's mind not been gradually closed in favour of the notion that the top man in SVN would have to be Catholic?
Skipping on to page 54, we find this:
The views expressed by the OCB and other government authorities give some indication why, when on 10 May 1954, analysts at the State Department's Division of Philippine and Southeast Asian Affairs produced a list of sixteen Vietnamese politicians whom they considered reliably anticommunist, Ngo Dinh Diem - who had held no political office for over two decades and who had not participated in the struggle to rid his homeland of colonial oppression - headed the list. The analysts described Diem as "[t]he most prominent Catholic leader in Vietnam, perhaps the most popular personality in the country after Ho Chi Minh." They added, "Probably has Vatican support." At least six of the sixteen candidates for South Vietnamese leadership were Catholics, a high number given that Catholics made up only about 10 percent of the population of Vietnam.
Is the list online? Dunno. Yet.
Apparently, the papers dealing with Diem's move from being one of sixteen to getting the job are still classified!
All very unsatisfactory.
Monday, January 09, 2006
The American romance with China
Where we are with thinking on the Diem question is roughly this:
Books like Halberstam's The Best and the Brightest and Hallin's Uncensored War - where the main discussion starts with the inauguration of John Kennedy - and the relative volume of attention that VN under the JFK and later presidencies, compared to Eisenhower's, gets generally, might lead one to the conclusion that, no later than January 1961, all bets were still on.
My hypothesis is that that is not true. That, on the contrary, there was never any possibility of an outcome favourable to the US according to the criteria then shaping US foreign policy.
Dien Bien Phu fell on May 7 1954; the Geneva Conference started on April 26; Ngo Dinh Diem arrived in VN on June 26 to form a government as Bao Dai's prime minister.
I've looked at the process whereby Diem got an influential following in the US. What I haven't got is anything official from within USG on the process whereby he got picked for the job. The 1954 volumes on the UW FRUS online archive don't include any covering Indochina. (Yet - it's a work in progress, apparently.)
I'm looking for background on the mindset of the US political class on Far East affairs.
The gravitational pull of China was irresistible. Feeding the loss of China nonsense.
So I go to look more carefully at the China Reporting etext (mentioned before).
In the section on Thomas Millard, a journo who knocked around China for years, starting around the time of the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, and was highly influential on subsequent generations of American reporters who came to cover the country.
It addresses the question of the (one-way?) Sino-American romance (emphasis mine):
From 1900 to 1930, Millard wrote seven books and reported for the New York Times, New York World, New York Herald, New York Herald Tribune, Scribner's, Nation, and others. Because it was a time of political transition in China characterized by disorder and lack of authority, Millard and those associated with him were able to engage effectively in advocacy journalism. But he quickly realized that the American public was not very interested in China, that editors stood in the way of getting the word out and educating the public. So he sought to influence the foreign policy elite, and in this task he was helped by friends with influence and money, such as Charles Crane, an influential Chicagoan who, after making a great deal of money, devoted his life to pushing the concept of a special US relationship with China and Asia. Millard was often subsidized by Crane to the tune of $500 a month, and at times by various Chinese governments. Besides writing, Millard went to Washington to try to influence the State Department and constituent groups such as missionaries and businessmen, relentlessly propounding the idea of a special relationship with China.
So, if the American public wasn't interested in China in 1900, when did the romance begin?
I've mentioned Pearl Buck before, whose Good Earth appeared in 1931 and pulled down a Pulitzer for her ; which she followed up with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938.
Of course, 1931 was also the year of the Japanese invasion of Manchuria - which I imagine (evidence?) got a fair amount of press. The newsreels were talkies by then (I'm assuming), which must have had some effect (evidence?).
There is a thesis right on point - Americans and the issue of China : the passion and dispassion of American opinions about China, 1930 to 1944 - but it's not available to the public.
A GB book, Fdr's Good Neighbor Policy: Sixty Years of Generally Gentle Chaos by Frederick Pike, suggests a Depression angle:
Americans in quest of renewal...found primitives in virtually all parts of the world to fulfill their psychic needs and longings. For some questers, Chinese peasants afforded the proper models.
The Good Earth fed their appetite, he says. It's a theory.
However the whole thing started, the American romance with China had reached absurd proportions by December 7 1941. I happen to have to hand a dead-tree One World by Wendell Willkie, which is pretty much ga-ga on the subject. Willkie scarcely comes within anyone's definition of best and brightest. But I have a feeling that few were calling him on his other-worldly faith in Chiang Kai-shek and his band of venal cutthroats.
From there, there's a connection with FDR emissary, Oklahoman Patrick Hurley, and hence to our lost leaders at State, John Service and John Paton Davies; Hurley, I've read, was at the bottom of the witchhunt that winkled them out. From Hurley, one can also draw a line to the China Lobby, who terrorised Truman, and made him a fellow-traveller of the McCarran/McCarthy roadshow; and, as a bonus, kept JFK and LBJ in need of a regular supply of macho stances.
That's a whole lot of connecting-the-dots, and almost nothing in the way of actual evidence.
Of course, immediately before the events listed above, USG had, after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, arrived at a good decision on Indochina: not to intervene militarily on the side of the French.
A decision arrived at despite the loss of China, the threat of the commie-lover tag, the relatively early stage of the Eisenhower presidency.
The gilt is rather scraped off the gingerbread if one imagines that, at the moment Ike's boys were giving the Frogs the finger, they were preening themselves over their cunning plan to put Diem in as leader of the South.
The research continues.
Stetson Kennedy was a fabulist
According to the Freakonomics boys' piece in the Times, at least.
His 1954 book was called I Rode With the Ku Klux Klan. It seems that, actually, he didn't. The material was OK, it was just his version of how he got it that included some stretchers.
It all came to light just because of a chapter in the Freakonomics book. The perils of publicity!
I've mentioned Kennedy's Jim Crow book before: fun facts about the crazy laws of segregation in and out of Dixie c1960. Hope that's kosher...
Saturday, January 07, 2006
Motherlode of 1959 US media pablum on SVN
In part 1 of the 1959 hearings on VVA (next door piece), pp31-44.
Among the hacks represented is the New York Times' Tillman Durbin (not named after Pitchfork Ben, surely?), whom no one (to judge from the pieces copied) needed to tell to get on the team.
Ambassador Eldridge Durbrow (p30) runs through the roster of resident journos: Brix (UPI), Wilde (Time-Life) and an unnamed freelancer for AP (or possibly Wilde doubling up - the text is unclear).
Holbrecht of UPI covered SVN from Japan; Durbin from Hong Kong.
The reprinted articles are mostly from Durbin; there are also pieces from Ernest K Lindley (Newsweek) and Igor Oganesoff (Wall Street Journal) - presumably parachute operations like Colegrove's.
The same search produces the report on hearings (July 27-August 14 1959) by the Subcommittee on the Far East and the Pacific of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, entitled The Current Situation in the Far East.
As with the Senate hearings, Colegrove puts in an appearance. Unlike the Senate report (that I've discovered on a quick skim), the House report gives the text of the articles of his that started the whole business off. The reprint starts on the last page of the sixth part, and goes on for 15 or so pages in the seventh and final part.
VVA comes through on Colegrove
A search on "albert m colegrove" produces the goods - two dozen items: various (more or less) ephemera, plus the report of the hearings on 30-31 July 1959 of the Subcommittee on State Department Organization and Public Affairs of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee which the Colegrove articles (earlier piece) triggered. Which I'm skimming right now.
A snappy treatment of the US/Diem farrago
In the VVA, by Herbert S Parmet, The Making and Unmaking of Ngo Dinh Diem.
[From a cursory search, Parmet seems to have the web seal of approval.]
He makes the case (towards which I am currently inclined, as mentioned a couple of days ago) that the problem was intervention in SVN after Geneva in support of a leader of such little competence and legitimacy as Diem.
By the advent of JFK, it was way too late. He might have been able to contemplate a withdrawal mañana (ie after November 1964) - as he is quoted as telling fellow Diem-lover Mike Mansfield (text to n102) - but, as the song almost says, we'll never know.
Parmet speaks of Diem's Catholic connection as as if it were already old hat. (His piece is undated.) I'm still intrigued, though.
Once Diem was in place, the condemnations of the likes of Lawton Collins (earlier piece) were overcome by the success of the evacuation of refugees from the North  and his crushing of the sects (something on which USG - in the shape of Dulles (p17) - was initially by no means keen.
Parmet doesn't (that I noticed on a first reading) deal with the possibility that JFK could have taken advantage of the Buddhist crisis in 1963 to withdraw from SVN on a tide of US popular outrage. (It's a suggestion I've seen made - but it sounds drutherful to me.)
The question of precedent needs to be addressed - I'll mention while I think of it:
The golden rule of any bureaucracy is, Don't do anything for the first time. So what were the precedents facing JFK?
There was the loss of China: I don't think (I have nothing to cite on the point, though) that any serious player seriously contemplated US military intervention against Mao's boys in support of the KMT. On the other hand, that was the GOP's Old Reliable big stick with which to beat the Dems. (Several political generations later, its effect could still be seen in the cramped and crabbed performance of John Kerry on national security matters in 2004.
On the other hand, Laos was neutralised in 1962 without Kennedy being run out of town on a rail.
Indonesia - a much larger country than SVN and next door to kith and kin ally Australia - was allowed to slide into something close to communism in the later years of Sukarno. The country enjoyed the attentions of the CIA (in the Sumatra rebellion in 1958 and the 1965 coup), but no sign of US combat troops!
The fear that US withdrawal from SVN would cause a fatal crisis of confidence amongst regional allies, leading to a tumbling of dominoes, I would hypothesise to be US cover for doing what they would have done anyway. I've seen umpteen dominoes quotes from US officials, but no analysis I can recall of how realistic the fear was. (I'm sure there's plenty somewhere!)
Not forgetting China
When it comes to American delusions about Asia, if Diem's Vietnam was the moon, Chiang Kai-shek's China was the sun.
For one thing, as I've quoted Mike Mansfield - Asian scholar that he was, neither he nor most anyone else in the US knew much about Indochina back then. But most mid-century Americans not only knew of the existence of China, but had fuzzy feelings about it. After decades of Yellow Peril in the 19th and early 20th centuries, by the time Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931, there was a whole slew of folk knowledge Stateside, missionaries had gone out, Pearl Buck's Good Earth was a smash that year, etc, etc.
There is - I stumble over - an etext, China Reporting by Stephen R. MacKinnon and Oris Friesen, in which journalists and others who reported on China back to the US in the 1930s and 1940s talk to historians on what they reported, and how it differed from what actually happened!
I've yet to read it - but it looks promising to give some clues to the wholly irrational passion that made the Truman lost China roorback such a powerful GOP weapon in 1950 and 1952.
In the 50s, one must always bear in mind, the salience of Indochina was pretty damned low (I'd feel happier with a bit of polling to back that up, mind you!) - no combat deaths having a fair deal to do with that . Diem was, I'd surmise, a mania generally limited to the (supposedly) thinking classes, with a wider circulation among Catholics, thanks to the efforts of Spellman and Associates.
From the same site, there's another etext, The Stubborn Earth: American Agriculturalists on Chinese Soil, 1898–1937 by Randall Stross, which may suggest further reasons for a delusional trans-Pacific empathy.
Also there is Owen Lattimore and the "Loss" of China by Robert P Newman. Sounds as if it's on point.
Friday, January 06, 2006
Michigan State, police state
It was not only pols and the press who were falling over themselves to get put their shoulders to the wheels of Diem's circus wagon: academe lent their shoulders too.
Except Michigan State University, which got into the wagon and took hold of the reins!
The (well-known?) 1966 article in Ramparts tells the tale entertainingly.
A possible future case for treatment.
Meany: save us from lily-white unions
Too preoccupied with matters Indochinese at the moment.
But I record for future reference this, originally published in Harper's in 1971 under the title The Blacks and the Unions.
There was controversy over whether the Civil Rights Bill (which eventually became the Civil Rights Act of 1964) should have an FEPC provision (many earlier pieces here on previous attempts to enact an FEPC).
The AFL-CIO was strongly in favour. But only so that government could achieve what it could not (emphasis mine):
Both President Kennedy and Robert Kennedy were opposed to including an FEPC section because they thought it would kill the bill, but George Meany pressed for it. He did so for a simple reason. The AFL-CIO is a federation of affiliates which retain a relatively high degree of autonomy. The parent body can urge compliance with its policies, but the decision to act is left up to the affiliates. Meany felt that the only way the AFL-CIO could deal effectively with unions practicing discrimination would be to demand compliance with the law of the land. He testified before the House Judiciary Committee that the labor movement was calling for "legislation for the correction of shortcomings in its own ranks." And the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act greatly speeded the process of this correction.
More on the CRA shenanigan here.
Thursday, January 05, 2006
VN: The Willard Hotel shindig
The more I read, the more I'm led to think that Uncle Sam's goose was cooked - burnt to a crisp, in fact - way before Saint Jack raised his standard high.
My impression - I've only picked at elements of the Indochina wars story to date - is that the CW story arc that characterises US Indochina policy in the period between the end of the implemention Geneva  and the formation of the National Liberation Front in 1960 was essentially vamping till ready - the DRV had its work cut out recovering from the French war, with military action in the South on the back-burner - until old Ike and his quiet-lifers gave way to the best and brightest.
All the while, however, the American Friends of Vietnam, aided and abetted by a media supine where it was not deliriously enthusiastic, worked to close off debate amongst policymakers, and leave Diem, the Miracle Man, as the only man conceivable as leader of SVN.
This was - so far as I can tell - a Swift Boating aimed largely at the political class.
Seth Jacobs (p241) gives an example:
Except for Diem's tour of the United States in 1957, the AFV's greatest propaganda masterstroke was a conference titled "America's Stake in Vietnam" held at the Willard Hotel in Washington in June 1956". [Leading AFV member Joseph] Buttinger volunteered to set a "top-level" agenda. Over the next few weeks, according to his reports, he courted "representatives from leading national civic, public, veterans, and foreign-affairs organizations; ...representatives of the diplomatic corps in Washington; [and] the press."
There's evidently more, but that's all GB is poneying up right now.
(I find a longer extract from Kennedy's speech here.)
After Tulipmania came Diem-mania. Kennedy, whose shtick, as I recall, included a claim to be some kind of foreign policy expert - in the striking role of anticolonialist cold-warrior - seemed intent on boosting Diem into the stratosphere. Such a paragon was never seen on earth, let alone in mid-century Indochina!
Did he feel he needed any research to back up his claims? Had he ever been advised on SVN affairs by any Vietnamese not within the Diem orbit, I wonder?
This, I suppose, must be the American innocence of which I've heard spoken...
JFK is a guy whose sagacity and judgement have had some boosting of their own, notably on the speculation about his decision (if there was one) to withdraw from VN after reelection.
Does one conclude that he grew up between 1956 and 1961? Did the crush on Diem evident in his Willard ravings affect his judgement in dealing with VN as President?
Who, in 1956, was taking a public stand against the Diem love-in? Anyone?
There are, it turns out, further particulars to be found at the Virtual Vietnam Archive. A book containing an edited version of proceedings at the "America's Stake in Vietnam" meeting , plus much correspondence, memos and like material.
The VVA is full of good stuff, of course; but the search sensation tends to be that of opening a cupboard, and having its contents fall on top of you!
Calling International Rescue...
(Can't help thinking Thunderbirds somehow.)
GB pot luck on Seth Jacobs' Diem book brings us to p234, in a chapter on the MO of the American Friends of Vietnam, which wrapped up all that goodwill and admiration for the Miracle Man (as outlined in previous pieces) into an organised lobby. (And the lefties complain about today's K Street!)
We join the chapter tantalisingly just after the passage on media manipulation:
...the leading figures in the AFV - Buttinger, Cherne, Oram and the diplomat Angier Biddle Duke - had spent many years working for the IRC, the largest nonsectarian refugee organization in the world.
IRC is International Rescue Committee.
The IRC gained international renown in the 1930s and 1940s for saving European Jews from Hitler's tyranny, and its anticommunist credentials were certified in the 1950s with well-publicized fund-raising drives to rescue East German and Hungarian victims of Soviet repression. An IRC résumé conferred enormous moral authority upon its possessor and tended to place that individual beyond suspicion of legally questionable activity. Moreover, even if such suspicion were piqued, there was little chance of harassment by the US Justice Department, as Oram pointed out in an interview with the historian William Brownell. "Even by 1962, there were only four lawyers to oversee the Foreign Agents Registration Act for the entire United States," Oran recalled. Hence, no one raised the issue of conflict of interest when Oram's firm received money from Diem's government while Oram continued to serve on the board of directors of the AFV. More important than lack of legal oversight was the vacuum of Vietnam expertise in the United States at the time of the AFV's emergence. Cherne remarked to Brownell that the AFV had "a clear field of fire...There was no alternate body of information on Vietnam."
This is, of course a consistent line, offered alike by those condemning the formulation and execution of USG policy in Indochina, and by those seeking to excuse its - shall we say, inadequacies?
We have - earlier piece - Mansfield, a former academic specialising in East Asia before his election to the US House admitting his ignorance of Indochinese affairs in 1949. And the roll call of Halberstam's best and brightest facing a similar gulf of ignorance a decade later.
In particular, the depredations of the Red Scare in the roster of FE are blamed. My hypothesis, raised from the most cursory of searches, is that the guys purged from State by the witch-hunters were like Mansfield - all China specialists.
Mansfield also said in that same 1949 quote that no one else (in the US) knew much about Indochina either. Presumably, if there had been IC expertise in the State Department, then-Rep Mansfield would have known about it. And, if that expertise had already been purged, then Truman would have done the purging!
John Service, John Carter Vincent, John Paton Davies and Edmund Chubb are mentioned by Robert McNamara in In Retrospect. I can find nothing that supports the idea that they were experts on Indochina. Both Service nor Davies come up empty.
(McNamara mentions the quartet for self-exculpator reasons, natch!)
Who else in America knew about Indochina? Certainly, the Michigan State University Group, who were up to all sorts in SVN during Diem's first five or six years in charge.
What about the French? Suez may have put the kibosh on official French assistance and advice - but there must have been some expertise to be tapped from non-governmental sources.
Surely the sheer intellectual curiosity of top USG men with Indochina responsibilities - JFK's, if not DDE's - would have driven them to seek knowledge - however unofficially - from whomsover might have it? (Mac Bundy was Dean of Harvard, for God's sake!)
The Red Scare ranks as an excuse with the Times' Bill Keller's explanation why Judith Miller pieces on national security continued to appear in the rag even though he'd directed her to leave the topic alone:
she kept kind of drifting on her own back into the national security realm.
Jacobs goes on:
James Fisher also notes that the crazy-quilt pluralism of the AFV's membership also worked in the group's favor, serving to distinguish it from other one-issue lobbies whose rosters featured only hard-line conservatives or liberal/leftists. The national committee of the AFV, Fisher observes, "comprised perhaps the most ecumenical coalition of opinion-makers ever witnessed," including [Mansfield and JFK], the Republicans Walter Judd and Clement Zablocki, [Luce and Hearst], the liberal academics Samuel Eliot Morison and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr, the war heroes Audie Murphy and Mike O'Daniel, the Oscar-winning director Joseph Mankiewicz, the author and "celebrity saint" Tom Dooley, and even Norman Thomas, the president of the American Socialist Party.
One might note, in the first couple of years after the French returned to Indochina after WW2, the Communists in government in Paris opposed any moves towards genuine independence for the place. The PCF changed its tune later.
And also to point out its salutary warning against assuming merit in bipartisanship. Or even polypartisanship!
Thomas apparently joined
...with the proviso that "my interest in Viet-Nam does not extend to automatic endorsement of American participation in war to that end."
Thomas's signature on a letter arguing that Diem was justified in refusing to permit the scheduled elections was doubly effective; if the socialist leader believed that holding a single election in both parts of Vietnam could "only be regarded as an imperialist endeavor contrary to the will of the South Vietnamese people," then, it appeared, the AFV was not merely spouting a party line.
When William Donovan, an early chairman of the AFV, wrote to President Eisenhower to protest communist Chinese premier Chou En-lai's call for compliance with the Geneva Accords, Eisenhower responded personally within two days, assuring Donovan that he "completely agreed" with the chairman's position and that he would "instantly" take up the matter of Chou's "impertinence" with the State Department. "As you know," the president wrote, "I consider that President Diem is the most potent force we have in South Viet Nam to halt the arrogant march of communism."
God bless us every one...
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Diem: the media Hall of Shame
A window on the Age of Murrow .
Henry Luce gushed a Mississippi over the guy (p221):
President Ngo Dinh Diem is one of the great statesmen of Asia and of the world...In honoring him we pay tribute to the eternal values which all free men everywhere are prepared to defend with their lives.
At least, when Sulzberger, Raines and Keller published his crap, they weren't quite so effusive about Ahmed Chalabi!
It was a Life headline that tagged Diem "The Tough Miracle Man of Vietnam," and the world "miracle" became indelibly associated with Diem's name.
It came out in the wash in 1963, I seem to recall...
There are similar counterfactual accolades quoted by Jacobs from Newsweek, the New York Herald Tribune and William Randolph Hearst in the New York Journal-American.
And the New York Times does not disappoint. The Gray Lady casts dignity to the wind, and performs a knickerless can-can the length of 42nd Street in Diem's honour:
The [Times] "salute[d] President Ngo Dinh Diem" for carrying out a "five-year miracle" in South Vietnam.
The tail-end charlie of this roll of shame is - none other than the aforementioned Murrow:
In a radio interview in 1956, Murrow asserted, "Diem...has made so much progress in the past six months that some people use the overworked word 'miracle' in describing improvements in South Vietnam.
Note that Murrow is not (or not fully) endorsing use of the M-word. But his evident endorsement of the P-word is bad enough.
The dour US News and World Report joins the Diem street parade more than half-cut:
[It] presented a photograph of Diem surrounded by a cheering mob; alongside the photo ran the caption: "Ngo Dihn Diem, South Vietnam's president, has sought and gained popular support. The success of Diem's leadership has surprised the skeptics and aroused the anger of the communists.
Was it a lack of reporters in theatre? Or incompetence or ideological blindness to the facts? Or their being overruled by top editors anxious to be on the team?
The providers of fish-wrapping were not the only culprits:
Scholarly publications proved no less susceptible to the miracle legend. The prestigious journal Foreign Affairs asserts, "History may yet judge Diem as one of the great figures of twentieth century Asia." The author William Henderson claimed that prior to Diem's assumption of the premiership, South Vietnam "seemed certain to sink into the abyss of bloody internecine strife ending in complete collapse." Yet a mere two years later, "South Vietnam is very much in business...In short, a wholly unexpected political miracle has taken place in South Vietnam...[T]he principal credit should be given to [Diem].
Slaves to today's liberal conventional wisdom may find it strange that
The liberal press was most lavish in its praise, a development that seems counterintuitive give Diem's conservatism and religious zealotry. These traits were more than offset, however, by his uprightness and apparent independence. Whereas Asian Allies like Bao Dai and Chiang Kai-shek had, either through corruption or sloth, earned the label of puppet, Diem appeared immune to such obloquy. Self-denying in his lifestyle, he did not visibly profit from the aid America funneled into his regime. Further more, his determination to steer his own course, even if that meant initiating war with the Bihn Xuyen against the wishes of Eisenhower's personal representative, seemed to demonstrate his freedom from superpower coercion. The phrases "nobody's puppet" and "nobody's pawn" recurred frequently in the stories run on Diem in the American media. If Diem were no puppet, it followed that the United States was not practicing neocolonialism by supporting him, and cold war liberals like [Mansfield] and [Justice Douglas] could be secure in their own righteousness and confident that America would not repeat France's failure in Vietnam. The Miracle Man's appeal to the messianic liberalism of the early cold war - as distinguished from the more jaded liberalism of post-Vietnam America - ensured that, in James Fisher's words, "Diem was lionized...as beacon of non-communist Left internationalism in the 1950s.
General Pinochet should have been so lucky!
Because, as Jacobs points out, of all this hero-worship
...none...was a consequence of any programs initiated by Diem as leader of the Republic of Vietnam. On the contrary, Diem moved swiftly after consolidating power to transform his country into a police state structurally indistinguishable from the most oppressive dictatorships on either side of the Iron Curtain.
Ignorance serving wishful-thinking and ironclad conformism? Or cynical partisan politics? (The Dems were still raw from the electorally successful GOP claim - the Swift Boating of its day- that they lost China. Dissent from liberal pols and their media supporters on Diem's stellar evaluation in DC would have offered opponents a powerful wedge. The minimal salience of Vietnam would hardly justify the risk.)
A good many of those who read it, no doubt, genuinely believed it. But, then, half of today's Americans think Noah put animals two by two in an actual boat. So, go figure...
Step forward Lawton Collins...
I'm establishing the cast list from Jacobs (see earlier pieces):
Collins was appointed Special United States Representative in Viet-Nam with the personal rank of Ambassador by Ike on November 3 1954, a time when implementing the Geneva Accords - or the parts that were going to be implemented - was still in progress.
Collins, a Catholic, was not a Diem groupie:
Although a Catholic himself, Collins correctly identified Diem's religious militance as tending to undermine indigenous support for his government...For over six months in 1954-55, the general furnished Washington with dozens of reports arguing for Diem's replacement by another South Vietnamese: a Buddhist, a coalition builder, a practical politician with experience in Vietnamese affairs.
There then followed by the battle against the sects (the Cao Dai, Binh Xuyen and the Hoa Hao); Collins was not impressed at all with Diem's decision to eliminate them by violence, nor with its execution. Eisenhower disagreed...
Enter Dr Dooley...
Moving down the list of GB snippets from Seth Jacobs book about Diem (see next-door pieces), I come to p159, which mentions Dr Thomas Dooley, a sterling publicist for US engagement in Vietnam. His good works in theatre during the 1950s got him the Congressional Gold Medal .
His first book, Deliver Us from Evil, dealt with his activities in helping refugees from the North reach the South in 1954-55. It wowed the Catholic press; and got Mike Mansfield to his feet on the Senate floor:
If the United States had aboard more ambassadors Like Thomas A Dooley, I think it not only would be better off, but it would be better understood in the countries which are underdeveloped.
Jacobs lists as being amongst Dooley's cheerleaders DDE, Earl Warren, Eleanor Roosevelt and - surprise, surprise! - Cardinal Spellman. And our friend Diem, of course.
[ER, eh? No doubt she was looking at the operation as purely humanitarian, overlooking the CIA-organised stunt element to proceedings. Otherwise, for a parlour-pink anti-imperialist, it would be rather odd. She wanted the French kept out of Indochina in 1945, I gather, as her old man was proposing.
For another day.]
On p161, Jacobs gives us a flavour of Dooley speechifying. It's vivid stuff:
What do you do for children who have had chopsticks driven into their ears? Or for old women whose collarbones have been shattered by rifle butts? Or for kids whose ears have been torn off with pincers? How do you treat a priest who has had nails driven into his skull to make a travesty of the Crown of Thorns?
There were atrocities a-plenty perpetrated by the Communists in Vietnam; but Prados calls Deliver Us a
highly stylized account of the events [which] could have been written by one of Ed Lansdale’s CIA propaganda experts...
The Belgian atrocity stories of World War 1 naturally come to mind to counsel caution.
Added to which
American ignorance of Vietnam ensured that no one noticed when Dooley got his facts wrong. "My story is a story of Viet Nam, a country just a few miles wide and fewer miles long," he proclaimed in a Chicago address...In another speech, he claimed that the "tragedy in Vietnam was partly...of American's making, because we failed to completely crush the Chinese armies in Korea to the point where they could never have moved down...to Southeast Asia and taken over."
A pattern seems to be emerging...
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
The Catholic mafia in America
Jacobs goes on (p79) to give a flavour of the Catholic political sway in the US during the 1950s:
With strength in numbers, improved schooling, and crescendoing economic power came political clout. The Catholic grip on local political machinery in some states, notably Connecticut, was nearly absolute. By 1960, twelve Catholic senators and nine-one representatives served in Congress - a representation greater than American Catholics had achieved previously, albeit one in proportion to their numbers. In terms of orientation on the left-right political spectrum, Catholic legislators ranged between two McCarthys, Eugene on the left and Joseph on the right, most tending to cluster the conservative pole. Even liberal cold war congressmen like John F Kennedy and Mike Mansfield were spirited in their hawkishness, while Senator Patrick McCarran of Nevada frequently out-McCartheyed McCarthy in his red-hunting exertions and in the Internal Security Act of 1950 that bore his name.
...Charles Morris notes, "[b]y the 1950s, the Catholic Church was the country's dominant cultural force. No other institution could match its impact on politics, unions, movies, or even popular kitsch." Books with explicitly Catholic themes like Francis Spellman's The Foundling and Thomas Merton's The Seven Storey Mountain numbered among the biggest best-sellers of the fifties. Red Foley's song "Our Lady of Fatima" made the Hit Parade in 1950 and was recorded a dozen times throughout the remainder of the decade by artists as diverse as the Ray Charles Singers and Andy Williams. In 1959, the Catholic Press Association reported a record total of over twenty-four million subscribers to 580 Catholic newspapers in the United States. That same year, more than 150 radio stations carried "The Catholic Hour" to an estimated four million listeners. Bishop Fulton Sheen's "Life Is Worth Living" series not only captured the largest television audience of the mi-1950s, with over thirty million viewers per week, but also won every major TV award, many of them several times...hugely popular television personalities - Jackie Gleason, Ed Sullivan, and Perry Como, to name but three - made no effort to disguise their identity as Catholics, as they might have in an earlier time; on the contrary, they spoke openly of their devotion to the Church. Depictions of Catholic priests and nuns in the movies were overwhelmingly favorable, in sharp contrast to the brutish interpretations set forth in films from the thirties like Little Caesar and Public Enemy. Significantly, the Hollywood Catholic priest of the cold war era was a virile figure, prepared to back up his principles with his fists. In the film On the Waterfront (1954), Karl Malden's Father Barry flattened a form prizefighter. After viewing this multiple Academy Award-wining movie, Marty noted, "Catholicism tends to dominate the mass media."
Sez Jacobs, at least. Is his analysis representative, and not cherry-picked?
Not sure. For instance, on the change between the pre-war and Cold War movie priest, which unfortunate who has sat through Boy's Town fails to note that the Spencer Tracy character gets a pretty good angle? And Bing Crosby in Going My Way is not exactly a cipher. (Though neither resorts to physical violence, as I recall.)
And what about the unions? How did left-footers get on in the Communist-dominated CIO in its breakthrough years in the Popular Front period?
As for favouring the dictators, what part did national origin, as distinct from religion, play in this? Italians supporting Musso, Germans - plenty of whom who have been Catholics - backing Hitler as a badge of community identity?
As for the Irish, they might  well have viewed the UK as a likely target of Hitler's aggression, and supported him on the old ground that England's difficulty is Ireland's opportunity.
A dedicated Diem book!
I refer to America's Miracle Man In Vietnam: Ngo Dinh Diem, Religion, Race, and U.S. Intervention In Southeast Asia 1950-1957 by Seth Jacobs.
On the question of alternatives to Diem, Jacobs denies my suggestion earlier that there were none (p4):
...anticommunism and ignorance of local political realities are insufficient to explain why America opted to sink or swim with Diem rather than some other South Vietnamese. As the record of administrative deliberations in the mid-1950s makes plain, several popular, qualified, and irreproachably anticommunist politicians in Saigon presented attractive alternatives to Diem, and every member of President Dwight Eisenhower's policy -making coterie was aware of their existence; indeed, one aspirant, former defense minister Phan Huy Quat, come close to unseating Diem, as J Lawton Collins, Eisenhower's "special representative" in Vietnam, relentlessly badgered Washington to effect such a change in command. Other suitable candidates included Foreign Affairs Minister Tran Van Do and General Nguyen Van Hinh. These men had all established their anticommunism, and all had greater political experience than Diem. Yet none was able to secure the backing of the Eisenhower administration.
I propose to demonstrate how a particular body of ideas about religion and race helped cement the Eisenhower administration's alliance with Diem.
I have a theory...
On p25, he names Rep Walter Judd as one of Diem's groupies. Diem's
...Catholicism endeared him to elite figures in the Eisenhower administration and made him stand out among possible candidates for America's cold war surrogate in Saigon. Moreover, widespread assumptions that Asians were culturally, and perhaps racially, unready for democratic self-government predisposed US policymakers to excuse Diem's overtly dictatorial ambitions as appropriate for Vietnam.
[I'm assuming he checked that Quat, Do and Hinh  weren't Catholics!]
On his first days in the Land of the Free:
Diem first set foot on American soil in late August 1950...he came with impressive references. Edmund Gullion of the American embassy in Saigon informed [Acheson] that Diem was "the chief leader of the Vietnamese Catholics" and speculated that his visit might heighten Catholic awareness of "the communist danger to Viet-Nam."
The Ambassador in Tokyo had warm words on Diem's stopover and the State Department's Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs  threw a party for him.
He brought his brother, Bishop Ngo Dinh Thuc , who outdid his bro at State:
James Webb, acting secretary of state, cabled the Saigon embassy, "We were impressed that Thuc, through the Catholics, might be [an] important figure in [the] present IC [Indochina] complex...The [i]nfluence of Thuc's clerical background and position[,] with its evident bearing on his thinking[,] was apparent." Diem on the other hand, struck officials as "less precise, realistic, and authoritative...He fits more into [the] mold of [a] present-day Vietnamese politician, steeped in Oriental intrigue."
No facile stereotypes there, my word, no!
There's a flavour of the old Southern voting tests for Negroes in this, perhaps:
[The Ngos] were...incapable of advancing any strategy whereby the United States could displace the French in Indochina without damaging the recently inaugurated [NATO], and proved similarly unable to explain how American forces, nearly expelled from the Korean peninsula just weeks before, could fight two land wars in Asia at the same time. Diem in particular irritated Webb with his "resort to generalities." "Like other prominent Vietnamese," the acting secretary complains, "Diem is...either incapable or unwilling to [sic] offer any constructive solution to [the] current dilemma other than vague and defamatory ref[erence]s to Fr[ance] and implications that only [the] US can solve [the] problem, thru him of course."
The Ngos stayed a month in the US before leaving for Europe. Some contacts with 'lower-level functionaries' in the administration, but
associating primarily with clergymen and other individuals active in Catholic circles.
Dean Rusk wrote to one Father Frederick McGuire, an ex-missionary to Indochina and adviser to State, calling them
valuable allies in our common endeavor to preserve the rights of free men in Indochina.
That is, free in the sense used in the famous expression of the Truman Doctrine!
Rusk said the Ngos had
expressed themselves eager...to remain in touch with the Catholic clergy of the United States.
This visit was, it seems, without fanfare:
No American newspaper mentioned Diem's visit...
Later on (p41), we get some more on some
individuals active in Catholic circlesthat Diem kept in touch with.
Justice William O Douglas had Diem proofread sections on Vietnam in his war memoirs, in the preface of which he said that Diem was
a hero in Central and North Vietnam, with a considerable following in the South, too...Diem is revered by the Vietnamese because he is honest and independent.
And they say Clarence Thomas is not over-bright! Or - Heaven forefend! - perhaps he was lying...
He gave Diem a big leg-up, though, in introducing him to Mike Mansfield:
Nicknamed "China Mike," Mansfield was Congress's foremost authority on Asia, having been a professor of Far Eastern history before his election to the House of Representatives in 1942. The war in the Pacific generated a demand for individuals with Mansfield's academic background, and he acquired a seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee despite his lack seniority. In 1944, [FDR] sent him on a fact-finding trip to India, Burma, and China. Although FDR subsequently showed little interest in Mansfield's report, and despite the fact that Mansfield's criticism of Chiang Kai-shek left him vulnerable to attacks from McCarthyites after the Chinese communists won their civil war, the Montanan gained notoriety from this junketing.
Mansfield's specialisms were Japan and China; he said in 1949:
I do not know too much about the Indochina situation. I do not think that anyone does.
How's that for water's-edge Yankee arrogance! Borah in his prime couldn't have been sniffier .
The Livingstone-Stanley moment came
at a luncheon hosted by Douglas at the Supreme Court Building on 7 May 1953 [which] may have been one of the most fateful encounters of the postwar era. Also present at Douglas's luncheon were Senator John F Kennedy, Cardinal Spellman, Gene Gregory of the State Department, and Representative Zablocki, soon to become chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. When asked years later about the apparent religious homogeneity of the gathering, Mansfield insisted, "It wasn't a question of religion - the fact that we were all Catholics was just coincidental."
Jacobs says China Mike wasn't a bigot. But goes straight on with a strange sentence:
The same, however, could be said for Douglas who followed up his tribute to Diem in North from Malaya with a denunciation of the Buddhist church of Vietnam...It teaches very little social or community responsibility.
I assume that a not is missing between could and be. And Buddhism is hardly a church - Jacobs, not Douglas speaking.
Plus, as Jacobs said, most Viet Minh were Buddhist. He quotes the case of John Provoo, an American sergeant and Japanese POW accused of aiding the mistreatment of American POWs in the camp he was confined in. He was rumoured to be a Buddhist. And there is some connection with Douglas (on the next page - not available online!) .
Mansfield and Diem
Nosing around GB once more, to explore the left-footer Senator's connection with the oriental 'Winston Churchill' (LBJ's infamous comparison from his 1961 whistlestop tour of SVN).
From Leslie Gelb's The Irony of Vietnam (p207), one gets this:
While the period of confusion that followed Geneva was reflected in the public debate, the thrust of where different groups wanted the United States to go remained clear. On May 15, 1955, the Times told its readers that the United States had no alternative to supporting Diem in Vietnam. Only the Chicago Tribune espoused an anti-administration position, charging on May 3, 1955, that US aid was being wasted in Vietnam.
My QED in this mooch is (roughly) to gain more understanding of the perverse relationship between Ngo Dinh Diem and the US pols who groomed - and were groomed by - him during the course of the 1950s.
One has Cold War mentality; one has the Catholic connection; one has the lack of competition for the top job from Diem's cohort in SVN. There's more to it than that, obviously.
I note that Colonel Robert McCormick died on April 1 1955 [!], a few weeks before the critical piece noted by Gelb.
And Humphrey is one of the Diem boosters. And Fulbright brushing aside the corruption stories (from our friend Albert M Colegrove, I suspect - Gelb's CR reference does not give the date of his comment).
Not to mention the sterling performance by the New York Times - whatever USG might have said about Halberstam and his in-country colleagues, there was no need to tell the Times ed board to Get on the team!
Plus ça change...
As far as the odd ideological switcheroo - liberals supporting US intervention in Indochina, conservatives opposing  - there is the dissertation (PDF - I thought I'd mentioned it, but can't trace) Beyond the Solid South: Southern Members of Congress and the Vietnam War by Mark David Carson - the first part of which I've read, finding lots of good stuff therein.
One piece of the puzzle is undoubtedly the management of salience: the hardest thing to gauge, even with the benefit of the NYT full archive , is the relative weight of the various items on the public agenda at any particular time .
The eternal quest of USG from 1955 on was to minimise the salience of intervention in Indochina, whilst maximising the effectiveness of such intervention. (Hallin is the place to go on this, as much discussed here.) Clearly the Times had a reason to push Laos: pushing Eisenhower to toughen up? the hawk faction in USG making their move? Dunno: my knowledge of the Laos thing is way below Wikipedia.
Air America - tedious as ever, apparently
As the most cursory glance round here will attest, I think American politics are fascinating. Easily as gripping as, say, baseball. (The only American sport that I have the slightest knowledge of.)
But, in order to enjoy baseball, you have to have a knowledge of the basis rules. And Jon and Joe (or whoever) will assume the audience know them. New addicts have some homework to do before it starts to make sense.
The same with politics. Absorbing Riddick's from cover to cover isn't necessary. But familiarity with the basic functioning of the political world is.
AAR, broadcasting to a relatively small band of self-selecting lefty enthusiasts as its core audience , is, generally, a Groundhog Day of slogans, plus the gaudiest of the day's GOP gotchas.
Tuning in to Garofalo's show last night for the first time in three months, it was as if I'd never been away. Absolutely nothing of substance in the first 40-odd minutes - that old crock, the military-industrial-newstainment complex, reported for duty, as expected! - and that did it.
Rachel Maddow's show - an extra hour, and a more civilised start time - was chock full of filler. Hideously unconvincing banter with her guests to eke out the time; still only three sleeper stories noted, despite the doubling of running time; the unfunny Kent Jones, though, getting way more time.
Love the sense of priorities!
Restricted to an hour, the content was sufficiently rich to warrant downloading the MP3 (30 mins) and listening with a finger on the fast-forward button (another 30 mins). Now, the good bits are swimming in a soup of boring chat.
Example of what might replace the chat with something nutritious: the Houston Chronicle runs through some 06 races worth looking at. Starting, natch, with the Number One Blackhat, Tom DeLay, down there in TX-20.
And it tells me something I didn't know: the GOP is two short of a 2/3 majority in the Texas Senate; District 18 is heavily GOP, but the outgoing incumbent, Ken Armbrister, is a Democrat. (The pattern for a lot of seats in the US Congress in the South, in the decades following the Dems decision to dump the South back in 1963/4. They've almost all shifted GOP - as previously discussed here. A lot.)
Now is an exciting time for Dems, surely, with the prospect  of 30-40 competitive seats in the US House, and a plausible chance of gaining control of at least one house of Congress. Not to mention ensuring that the Governator will not be back!
But I get no sense that AAR wishes to engage with the detail.
I'm biased; as you can see, I'm all about the detail. A balance is needed for broadcasting, obviously. But, as of now, it's the thinnest of gruel.
Monday, January 02, 2006
Alger, I mean Adlai on the Powell Amendment
Hitting the Google Books once more, I find another gobbet on another object of obsession hereabouts (umpteen earlier pieces).
On page 119 of Civil Rights and Wrongs: A Memoir of Race and Politics, 1944-1996 by Harry S Ashmore , one finds a passage dealing with Adlai Stevenson's attitude to the Powell Amendment during the 1956 primary campaign.
Estes Kefauver had just kicked Adlai's ass in his own backyard in the Minnesota primary on March 20, majoring on desegregation. And, according to Ashmore (p119), "turned the issue against" Stevenson, who "saw no reason to mention it at all."
Next up was the California primary. Apparently, "Franklin Williams, the NAACP's West Coast representative" opposed the Stevenson line that "the implementation of Brown...could not be achieved by coercion." And threatened Stevenson with the loss of the Negro vote unless he at least supported the PA.
William's influence was not so much via the Negro vote (not too many in CA at the time) but over CA liberals. (Kefauver, it seems, was, despite his generally aggresively liberal stance, tapdancing around Brown implementation. He didn't sign the Southern Manifesto , of course - refusing to refuse did not entail a warm and gushing embrace.)
Stevenson gave a speech in Fresno which went down like a lead balloon. Adlai's answer:
Here among these intense young liberals it missed its mark. Evidently what they want to hear about is civil rights, minorities and Israel, and little else, and certainly no vague futures.
He braved a Negro audience in Los Angeles to tell them:
I will do everything I can to bring about national unity even if I have to ask some of you to come about it gradually.
Bill Lawrence of The New York Times, standing beside me in the back of the jam-packed hall, exclaimed, "He's blown it"...
Clearly, as far as Brown was concerned, the view that implementation needed more deliberation than speed was not confined to the Friends of Dixie (though Stevenson was a moderate who gained liberal support through opposing denizens of the farther shores of Cold War conspiracy).
Kefauver's campaign in the South were, it seems, not hollering but whispering nigger! Ashmore says he reported to Camp Adlai at the time
On the word-of-mouth level, Kefauver's people are undoubtedly making hay with the ain't-nobody-here-but-us Confederates approach to segregation...In the cracker country the standard technique is a broad wink and the question, 'Who do you think can handle them niggers better, a city fellow from Illinois or a country boy from Tennessee?'
The underlying fear amongst Dems was a Southern bolt, as in 1948. Ashmore suggested that both Southern Dems and voting (mostly Northern) Negroes could be kept in the Stevenson camp by careful use of this threat.
By April, Stevenson was trying to fix Eisenhower with the responsibility of driving the process of getting Southern and Negro leaders to agree a basis for implementing Brown.
And that's when the GB pages run out...
Adlai won, and then lost, of course. Perhaps one day I'll get the yen to look at him. Perhaps if a dead-tree Ashmore comes my way!
The other, related, threat to the Democrats in 1956 was the loss of the Negro vote to the GOP. It was, I think, thought a genuine possibility - certainly so long as the Dems in the Senate ensured civil rights bills were filibustered to buggery. Clarke Clifford's 1947 note I've discussed before. Adam Clayton Powell backed DDE in 1956.
Which is where - or at least, with whom - we came in.
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