Nov. 1 was the 50th anniversary of the coup that resulted in the murders of South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu. The Kennedy Administration backed the coup, postulating that Diem had become too repressive and autocratic. While his regime dealt harshly with political foes, Diem was respected by a majority of South Vietnamese as the only anti-communist leader strong enough to confront the more brutal Ho Chi Minh.
The coup was approved and enabled by U.S. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge and Assistant Secretary of State Averell Harriman. Both were elite members of the Eastern liberal establishment. Harriman graduated from Yale, Lodge from Harvard. They were considered among the “best and brightest” of America’s decision-making class. However, when Ho Chi Minh heard of Diem’s murder he is quoted as saying, “I cannot believe the Americans are so stupid.”
The “best and brightest” gave us the Vietnam War. Today the “best and brightest” are seizing health care. Beware the “best and brightest” — or be prepare to repeat past mistakes.
— August Cisar