2 September 1963: Kennedy Openly Criticises Ngô Đình Diệm Regime on National T.V.

On 2 September 1963, President of the United States John F. Kennedy openly criticised Ngô Đình Diệm’s regime on a CBS interview with Walter Cronkite, broadcasted in America and around the world.

When talking about the war in Vietnam in general, drawing attention to the fact that it had already been ongoing for longer than many journalists expected, President Kennedy highlighted his concern over Diệm’s policies of governance, specifically the religious persecution against Buddhists highlighted by Thích Quảng Đức’s self-immolation in June. President Kennedy said:

“The war is still going; in many ways, it’s going better. That doesn’t mean, however, that the events of the past two months are very ominous. I don’t think that, unless a greater effort is made by the government to win popular support, the war can be won out there. The final analysis; it’s their war. They’re the ones that have to win it or lose it. We can help them, we can give them equipment, we can send our men out there as advisors but they have to win it; the people of Vietnam against the Communists… In my opinion, in the last two months, the government has gotten out of touch with the people, the repression against the Buddhists, we felt, was very unwise. All we can do is to make it very clear that we don’t think this is the way to win. It’s my hope that this will become increasingly obvious to the government; that they will take steps to bring back popular support for this very essential struggle… while we want to help, we don’t see a successful ending to this war unless the people will support it. And the people will not support the effort if the government continues to follow the policy of the past two months.”

CBS-TV Interview With President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 2 September 1963 published by President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 9 March 2013 (13:42-15:20).

CBS-TV Interview With President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 2 September 1963 published by President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 9 March 2013.

Eventually, a US-backed army coup toppled Diệm, who was assassinated on 2 November 1963.

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