The Lost Mandate of Heaven

The Lost Mandate of Heaven

The American Betrayal of Ngo Dinh Diem, President of Vietnam

Book - 2015
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Ngo Dinh Diem, the first president of the Republic of Vietnam, possessed the Confucian "Mandate of Heaven," a moral and political authority that was widely recognized by all Vietnamese. This devout Roman Catholic leader never lost this mandate in the eyes of his people; rather, he was taken down by a military coup sponsored by the U.S. government, which resulted in his brutal murder.

The commonly held view runs contrary to the above assertion by military historian Geoffrey Shaw. According to many American historians, President Diem was a corrupt leader whose tyrannical actions lost him the loyalty of his people and the possibility of a military victory over the North Vietnamese. The Kennedy Administration, they argue, had to withdraw its support of Diem.

Based on his research of original sources, including declassified documents of the U.S. government, Shaw chronicles the Kennedy administration's betrayal of this ally, which proved to be not only a moral failure but also a political disaster that led America into a protracted and costly war. Along the way, Shaw reveals a President Diem very different from the despot portrayed by the press during its coverage of Vietnam. From eyewitness accounts of military, intelligence, and diplomatic sources, Shaw draws the portrait of a man with rare integrity, a patriot who strove to free his country from Western colonialism while protecting it from Communism.

"A candid account of the killing of Ngo Dinh Diem, the reasons for it, who was responsible, why it happened, and the disastrous results. Particularly agonizing for Americans who read this clearly stated and tightly argued book is the fact that the final Vietnam defeat was not really on battle grounds, but on political and moral grounds. The Vietnam War need not have been lost. Overwhelming evidence supports it."
-- From the Foreword by James V. Schall, S.J. , Professor Emeritus, Georgetown University

"Did I find a veritable Conradian 'Heart of Darkness'? Yes, I did, but it was not in the quarter to which all popular American sources were pointing their accusatory fingers; in other words, not in Saigon but, paradoxically, within the Department of State back in Washington, D.C., and within President Kennedy's closest White House advisory circle. The actions of these men led to Diem's murder. And with his death, nine and a half years of careful work and partnership between the United States and South Vietnam was undone."
-- Geoffrey Shaw , from the Preface

Publisher: San Francisco : Ignatius Press, [2015]
ISBN: 9781586179359
Branch Call Number: History 959.704 Sha
Additional Contributors: Schall, James V.


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Sep 30, 2017

************************** 50-Starred Review ********************************
[Please pay close attention to pp. 244 and 264]
This is a fantastic book and a welcome addition to the history of the American/Vietnam War. The author makes a number of intellectually forceful points - - some are quite enlightening, one or two I disagree with, and perhaps one might be on the tenuous side - - but all quite important!
The author presents David Halberstam in an entirely different light than many are used to: instead of how Halberstam has presented himself - - a neutral observer and author of The Best and the Brightest, or how those bumbling, educated fools got us into this mess - - I personally never cared for his frivolous portrayal of President Kennedy, having read and studied his executive orders, directives, legislation proposed and promoted and his personal papers - - Mr. Shaw demonstrates how Halberstam behaved more as a super-hawk, writing stories to promote more American involvement in Vietnam, completely in lockstep with Averell Harriman! The author quotes Charles Bartlett as a source of one JFK conversation and, while I do not doubt the veracity of the author, Bartlett was very close friends with Cord Meyer [CIA hawk] and Prescott Bush, and his family were friends with the NY Times' Salzburgers, et cetera. - - so unsure about Bartlett's honesty?
I certainly agree with the author that Ngo Dinh Diem was greatly mistreated, the coup against him and the horrific murder of President Diem was surely the paramount of such behavior! But then the author also makes the point, while tilting against JFK, that President Kennedy's advisors were most dishonestly and deceptively manipulated by Harriman and his cronies at State [Roger Hilsman et al.] and it was McGeorge Bundy who sent all those national security teletypes, and the one ostensibly from the president about a coup was most ambiguous and nebulous and completely un-Kennedyesque! [McGeorge Bundy was a protege of fired CIA deputy director, Richard Bissell, as well as friendly with Nelson Rockefeller, who had invited him many times to seminars hosted and funded by the Rockefellers prior to his appointment to the Kennedy administration, also Bundy was close friends to the Dulles family, and seven years after the JFK murder he would be one of the three principals to found the Rockefeller-financed Trilateral Commission [the other two: David Rockefeller and Zbigniew Brzezinski]. Also Roger Hilsman was former OSS, then CIA and later State/Bureau of Intelligence and Research]. My veering away from the author's conclusions are: {1} we know from Harriman's authorized bio, Richard Parker's outstanding bio of John Kenneth Galbraith, and JFK's papers that just prior to his assassination he was about to fire Averell Harriman [ignoring JFK's peace directives] and Ambassador Lodge [ignoring JFK's peace directives] and McGeorge Bundy [technically, he was going to shift Bundy over to State and replace him with Ted Sorenson as his national security advisor], but after his murder all three retained their positions for quite some time to come!
From the financial POV, all the pro-Vietnam War types, like Harriman, were financially interlocked with the Rockefeller family, and it was just 21 days between the coup in Saigon and the coup in Dallas or Washington, D.C., and just 20 days between the horrific murder of President Diem and President Kennedy, and many extraordinary actions took place during those 21 days! [And 21 days from when JFK signed NSAM 263, to the Saigon coup, and 21 days until McGeorge Bundy had his sectretary type up NSAM 273, signed the day after JFK's burial by LBJ.]


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