Born in the year 1901 to an aristocratic family, Ngo Dinh Diem rose to become the Prime Minister of South Vietnam in the year 1954. This paper looks in detail at the events during the life of Ngo Dinh Diem, his era of governance and the events that took place in the aftermath of his assassination. Catholic missionaries converted his predecessors into Christianity several years back in the 17th century. Much like his pervious family generations, he too was educated in French Catholic schools. Following his successful graduation he was trained as an administrator who worked in conjunction with the French authorities based in Vietnam. At a very young age of twenty-five, he became a provincial governor. This was his foray into a long political career, which marked dramatic incidents both in his personal life and the history of Vietnam.
At a time when communism was rising and regarded to be a threat by many western nations including the United States of America, Ngo Dinh Diem, portrayed him to be a vociferous opponent of communism. He worked for the administration of Emperor Bao Dai until the year 1933. During the Second World War and its aftermath, he continued to oppose the French occupation and also the National Independence Movement that was initiated by the communists. In the year 1945, he turned down an offer to work under the post war government that was briefly installed. While the confrontation lasted involving French troops and independent forces Ngo Dinh Diem spent a number of years in exile, which was quite influential in laying the buildings blocks to his political career. It was during those times that he occupied himself in a massive contact building exercise and eventually managed to gain the much needed support and approval of the United States of America.
Already proving himself anti-communist by not aligning with the Ho Chi Minh camp it was indeed quite easy for Ngo Dinh Diem to toe alongside the 'American' foreign policy. In the wake of the defeat of the French forces in the year 1954, he became Prime Minister of South Vietnam. With the express support of the United States of America he established himself as the supreme ruler of South Vietnam and began what was to be an extensively corrupt rule filled with devious ideologies much regarded as a terrible era of misrule and nepotism. His rule was however short lived as communist guerrillas sponsored by North Vietnam launched a fresh offensive against his regime. The American government was until then a friend of the Ngo Dinh Diem government changed policies and aligned with rebel generals of the armed forces of Vietnam. With such dramatic developments the regime and its power stood shaky and questionable. The end came in the year 1963 when a faction of the rebel armed forces commanded by a few powerful generals overthrew the regime and assassinated Ngo Dinh Diem. (Diem, Ngo Diem)
The life and times of Ngo Dinh Diem
Ngo Dinh Diem was born in the city of Hue, which was the capital city of the Nguyen dynasty. Born as a Catholic, his was a noble family in Vietnam, which had links with the ruling class for a number of generations. His father was an advisor to the then Emperor who had a tiny role to play under the French colonial rule. His elder brother Dinh Thuc was archbishop of Hue. Ngo Dinh Diem received formal education from French Catholic Schools throughout his life. Among the most significant of them was his stint in the School for Law and Administration in Hanoi. With his successful graduation from this prestigious institution he was swept into politics and worked for the French government. In the year 1929 he was elevated to the post of Provincial Governor. Four years later, in 1933, Emperor Bao Dai appointed him as minister of interior.
This however did not last too long as Ngo Dinh Diem withdrew from the government and opposed the French presence in Vietnam in sync with the opinion of many Vietnamese nationalists who were growingly concerned of the obnoxious French presence. During the Second World War period from 1940 to 1945, Vietnam was occupied by Japan. With the end of the Second World War, the communist backed Viet Minh ousted the Japanese in August 1945 and seized control of Vietnam. The Viet Minh government installed itself in Vietnam with Ho Chi Minh as its leader. The new government offered Ngo Dinh Diem a place in its fold but the offer was promptly refused as Diem viewed the communist government more of a threat that was a hindrance to his Christian values and morals and to his vision of an independent Vietnam. In the year 1950, he left Vietnam on a self-imposed exile and found refuge in the United States of America. During his stay in the United States, he came to be noted by the administration of President Dwight Eisenhower.
Eisenhower's administration was increasingly concerned of a communist takeover of South East Asia. In Ngo Dinh Diem, the administration saw a person who was more or less a Vietnamese Nationalist capable of countering the growing threat of communism. This was despite the fact that Ngo Dinh Diem remained a largely unknown figure in Vietnam. During the period when Diem was living in exile, the Viet Minh government was engaged in a confrontation with the French forces that sought to reclaim their lost colonies. After years of battle, the French conceded defeat-paving way for what was thought to be total independence of Vietnam. This however was not to happen. The Geneva Accord was the agreement that halted the war between the French and the Viet Minh. According to the provisions of the Geneva Accord, the Viet Minh was given control of only the northern part of the country. The implementation of the accord saw a temporary split in the geography of Vietnam making it into two different provinces; the northern sector and the southern sector. While the Viet Minh was given control of the northern sector, Emperor Bao Dai who was overtly supported by the United States government controlled the southern sector. Ngo Dinh Diem was made Prime Minister of South Vietnam under Emperor Bao Dai backed by the United States government. (Ngo Dinh Diem - Encarta)
It is widely believed and accepted that Ngo Dinh Diem's Prime Ministership was the game plan of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). America had long wanted a pro-U.S. government in the hemisphere and had for years tried overtly and covertly to resist any communist presence and establishment. Ngo Dinh Diem arrived in Vietnam with no political backing except the support of the United States and its intelligence apparatus the CIA. Almost all covert action personnel of the Central Intelligence Agency based in Vietnam backed Ngo Dinh Diem. Diem's takeover as Prime Minister was viewed with doubt by the then American President Dwight Eisenhower who went to the extent of questioning Diem's viability. President Eisenhower also accepted the fact that Diem was largely unknown and was a speck in comparison to Ho Chi Minh and his government, which claimed support of 80% of all Vietnamese people. The Geneva Conference of 1954-1955 imposed a ceasefire, which was highly beneficial to the CIA. The agency used the days of the ceasefire to conduct a series of propaganda and covert operations in North Vietnam.
In order to instill a sense of fear and insecurity among the Catholic population of North Vietnam, the agency embarked on a program of misinformation with regards to the threat of Nuclear weapons. This caused the Catholic population in North Vietnam to migrate down south. Having shifted base to South Vietnam, the Catholic Population was trained by the U.S. military and the CIA as policing force loyal to Ngo Dinh Diem. Catholic Vietnamese formed not more than 10% of South Vietnam's total population. However, under the rule of Ngo Dinh Diem, the group enjoyed all rights and privileges. In the aftermath of a political vacuum, which the United States saw as a fitting opportunity to place Diem in power, the CIA launched a series of covert operations and gained control over Saigon.
In due course, the Agency released a Special National Intelligence Estimate (SNIE), which deliberately omitted its role in supporting the Diem government. The Special National Intelligence Estimate (SNIE) declared that Ngo Dinh Diem was alone responsible for his success. Added to a barrage of lies and half truths, the CIA also conducted a worldwide disinformation program which portrayed Ngo Dinh Diem as a liberator of South Vietnam who fought the menace of communism guaranteeing a social stand against the aggressive North Vietnamese factions that were considered a rouge regime. From 1955 to 1960 Ngo Dinh Diem tried to assert his authority over rural South Vietnam. His forces killed and imprisoned people by the tens of thousands. This is regarded to be the beginning of the end for Ngo Dinh Diem and his oppressive regime. (Colby's Vietnam:…