Friday, October 23, 2009

Exit of the Ex-Emperor of Vietnam

It was on this day in 1955 that the last Emperor of Vietnam was removed as "Chief of State" of the French-sponsored State of Vietnam based out of Saigon and struggling to survive against the communist revolutionaries in Hanoi. After an epic, heroic defeat at Dien Bien Phu the French were forced to pull out of Southeast Asia and the U.S. began to take over their job of defending the area. In the north, the government and people were united by a totalitarian regime, in the south Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem was unifying the region, but making alot of enemies doing it. He appointed his family to most high offices, sent military troops after dissidents and Communist insurgents and promoted Catholic moral values. He turned against the Binh Xuyen gang in a street war, though the group had been sending Bao Dai a percentage of their profits to maintain their status. Diem would not tolerate this. When word reached Emperor Bao Dai in France he immediately decided to remove Diem from office.

Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem knew this was coming. He was also supported by the American Colonel Edward G. Lansdale (member of the OSS, forerunner of the CIA) who urged him to replace the "State" that seemed like a monarchy but technically was hard to categorize with a more "American style" republic, which the people in the United States would be more willing to support. On October 6, 1955 the Ministry of the Interior announced that a referendum would be held to depose Bao Dai in favor of Ngo Dinh Diem and replace the "State of Vietnam" with a republic. The Emperor denounced this decision, and said such on the 13th in a note to the French government and the Paris embassies of Britain, the United States, Russia and India. On the 18th Emperor Bao Dai announced the dismissal of Ngo Dinh Diem as Prime Minister and the revocation of all powers he had previously granted him. The next day he told the Vietnamese people he did this because, "police methods and personal dictatorship must be brought to an end, and I can no longer continue to lend my name and my authority to a man who will drag you into ruin, famine and war". However, the Emperor was in France and Colonel Lansdale had been using funds from the C.I.A. to bribe government officials and buy support for Ngo Dinh Diem. He also attempted to have one of the Emperor's most loyal supporters assassinated but when the attack failed, the government silenced the issue. None of it was probably necessary. The Emperor had been associated with the French for so long, and had been away from Vietnam for such lengthy periods that his government never really had any grass-roots support. Ngo Dinh Diem could have undoubtedly won without the use of any strong-arm tactics. However, in Vietnamese politics, regime-change was never about democracy but rather about power. Diem had it, Bao Dai did not.

When the referendum was held, Ngo Dinh Diem was in complete control of the polling stations and the entire voting process. Colonel Lansdale had also helped to give the would-be president an unfair advantage. He had the ballot cards for Bao Dai printed in green ink, the color of misfortune, and printed those for Ngo Dinh Diem in red, the color of good luck and prosperity. Those who did not understand the voting system were told by the troops at the polls to place the red ballots in the envelopes and throw the green ones in the trash. Those who persisted in trying to vote for Emperor Bao Dai were caught outside and assaulted by the soldiers. Some were severely beaten, others had water forced down their throats or hot sauce poured up their nose. In retrospect many said that Bao Dai never had a chance of winning even a fair election. However, this was a matter of principle for Diem who wanted to send a clear message to the country and the world as to who was in charge. A life-long monarchist (at least until now) Diem wanted a display of power as well as 'democratic progress'. When the votes were counted Ngo Dinh Diem claimed victory by 98%. Colonel Lansdale advised him to lower the number to a more realistic percentage, after all, anyone with experience in democracy knows that winning 98% of the electorate is unheard of. This advice was refused and everyone knew the referendum to be fraudulent. In Saigon for example, Diem claimed to have received more votes than there were registered voters in the entire area.

Bao Dai had few choices after this development. With America in support of Ngo Dinh Diem, no one had even listened to his original objection over the holding of the referendum and he had no reason to believe that this would change now. Already the Americans were taking on a larger role in the war effort. Most of the government officials had been bribed into supporting the new president (though only temporarily as time would tell) and Bao Dai had no real avenue with which to protest the results. He also knew that any effort to contest the results of the referendum would only further fragment an already divided nation. Instead, he decided that his only choice was to accept defeat and abdicate once again as the Head of State for Viet-Nám. The Emperor made one last appeal as he left the political stage for peace and unity and for his successors in the Saigon government to give consideration to all parties in the national struggle. He then settled into a life in exile and watched from the sidelines as his country was torn apart. In 1965 he told the French writer Hilaire du Berrier, "If your government had given me one thousandth of the sum it spent to depose me, I could have won that war." Colonel Nicholas Thorne, the U.S. Marine Corps language specialist and authority on the central region of Annam, had said the same as early as 1959.

With the new Viet-Nám being called America's "Showcase for Democracy" Colonel Lansdale came home and left behind Colonel Albert Pham Ngoc Thao to replace him. After the war it was released that Thao had been a communist agent and his remains were removed to the "Heroes Cemetery" in Hanoi. As for Emperor Bao Dai, he was reduced to the life of a powerless exile. During his final years in politics the Emperor's reputation was ruined by the American media. The CBS bureau chief in Paris, David Schoenbrun, wrote a story in Collier's of September 30, 1955 regarding Emperor Bao Dai. He was more concerned with politics than factual journalism however, saying, "Diem must not only remove Bao Dai but must do it in such a way that he no longer has any usefulness as a symbol of Vietnamese unity". In this at least, it can be said that the efforts of advocates of the "third force" in Vietnam were entirely successful.


  1. Duplicity and Violence are always at the core of any Republican movement to depose a Monarch. Veit Nam is no different. People today have in their minds the idea that Democracy is a higher, mroe evolved state of being, that rpelaced the older order of Monarchy because it had becom eoutdated. Democracy is seen as a form of Progress, and in the myth of the modernist thinking, Democratic progress is a gradual but inevitable step forwafd, brought baout by our becoming more enlightened, and castign off the shakcles of oppression. Of course, men yurn for Democracy, and its always those who strive for it who have only the best interests of the peopel at heart. Nothign could be further fromt he truth, and Veit Nam proves this unquestionably.

    Rigged elections are of coruse nothign new. Look into hisotry and you find all Republics, even America, is plauged by them. More recently, we saw an example of voting again until the right answer is given. Ireland rejected the Lisbon treaty, only to voge on it a yer and a half later, and approve it. Had they approved it the firts time round, there woudl have been no counterelection. In Australia, Republicans do the same, eagerly seekign a new referendum to replace the Crown wiht a Republican Government. Never midn that only ten years ago such a Referendum occured, it did not yeild the "Correct" Results.

    As for Veit Nam, peopel didnt understand what they voted for, phantom voters showed up, makign the number of voters larger than the actual populace, and peopel who wanted to vote for his Majesty the Emperor where simply bullied into not voting, yet this isnt the santitised version fo emcoracy we like to think of, so we see it as "Progress" and "The Will of the people" if we think of it at all.

    Revolutions are always vilent, dispicable affairs that leave the nation they infect un ruins. Even the American Revoluion left America bankrupt and unstable, and proved to generate the worst sort of man for the frt generation.

    This is simply how it is. But since we wqorship Democracy, we ignroe the reality, and see the fantasy of peopel longing for freedom, which soemho cant exist in a Monarhcy and can only exist in a Democracy, willign to stand opposed to an Emperor, who is a yrant, and castign off those shackels to stand as free men.

    This is why the Emperor was ridiculed and attacked, because he must play the role of a vcvillain, an oppresisve dictator, a tyrant. Demcoracy must be seen as positive and monarhcy as negative, and the narrative must play out, at leats in peoples minds, in that way.

    One other hting, the COmmunists really werent radically different. In fact, despite our modern culture seperatign thm, Communism is itself a form fo Democracy. it is roote din the principle that the people shoudl run the Govenrment, and all means of manufacture and distribution. Its a natural extension fo the Democratic principle. The Irony is peopel dont notice this. But its not liek you see a Communist Monarhcy.

  2. Fixing elections is a democratic art form -older nations just do it better than new ones; hence Lansdale telling Diem he needed to set a more realistic number than 98%. It is also true that the former Emperor had to be a villain (and he was far from a perfect man) because both the communist north and the republican south each in turn came to power by his removal, first as the traditional emperor and then as the "Chief of State". Hence, all parties could agree on attacking the Emperor in order to justify their own existence.

  3. Just building on Zarove's comment, I think that many in the West now mistake the rule of law for democratic government, thinking that the two are somehow equivalent terms for exactly the same thing. This, however, ignores the demand that the fount of law which is to be enforced must have some legitimacy. As was found in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, such legitimacy cannot be found solely in democracy, since these are nations which do not have any traditions of democracy which were not supported by another legitimate fount of law and justice - the monarchy.

    It is this confusion that has lead to so much bloodshed and violence in the world, and it is the one thing that must be fought by every monarchist the world over.

    Democracy is not in and of itself legitimate. By what rights are my opinions to be held in greater or lower esteem dependent on whether or not my preferred representative was elected? How am I to be represented by someone I thought unsuitable or inappropriate for a job?

    And to think that people claim a Republic is more unifying. What utter hogwash!

  4. And what do you do when someone is validly elected, very popular and yet destroys the constitution (written or unwritten) of the country? In a democracy, which is based on popular sovereignty rather than a sovereign monarch, there is little to nothing you can do within the system. To use the British example, the monarch is sovereign and the basis of all authority (which is law). Yet, in the US, the people are collectively sovereign and law is based on the constitution. So, in theory at least, the unwritten British constitution can be defended by the monarch who is sovereign, yet, in the US, there is almost nothing to stop attacks on the constitution that come from elected officials; and I don't mean simply violating it but more often changing it for their own purposes.

    The Republic of Vietnam never had a government which was accepted by the majority as legitimate (though I would say Diem's was most effective -he had been a monarchist all his life previous after all). The State of Vietnam was not clearly a republic or a monarchy yet there was no doubt on where "authority" came from; it came from the Chief of State, the former Emperor. Why? Simply because he had been the Emperor.

  5. Its been shown in numerous studies in Europe that the Monarchs are much better able to connect with the people than the politicians. This shocked the people who did the studies, who expected Democratically elected leaders to be superior at relating to the common man, having themselves emerged from them, but found the reverse.

    But to me it was no surprise. Politicians do not try to present themselves as regular people, for everyone knows that we don’t want a regular Joe in office. We want someone who is skilled and knows what he's doing. But the Politician must hone this image, and build on power bases, and play sides, and can never be trusted, and in the end the vast majority of politicians are simply out for personal power.

    That said, the reason I think Monarchy unifies people and Republics don't is simple, because the King is not Elected. He did not rise to power by using funds from special interest groups, and is not beholden to them. He doesn’t pander to segments of the population who make up voting blocs. He des not need to align himself with a political party to gain support, nor does he have to adopt that parties platform in order to be sold to the constituency. He doesn’t have to make special deals for backing from various groups. By and large he is also not an ideologue who entered politics just so he can force through his own vision of change, nor is he someone who just likes to pursue power to make himself feel Superior.

  6. The King is the King because he was either appointed or Born into it, and did not pursue power, and made no deals, and is beholden to none in this process.

    He can also, in this way, represent all the people. Elected officials never get all of the votes, and never represent everyone.

    A King, precisely because he is not elected, comes to us as he is. We are bound by duty to serve him and submit to him, and at the same time, because he is largely there based on Tradition, he is a living link to our past, and our culture. He, by his mere existence, unites us all. He is the Embodiment of our laws, our culture, and our aspirations. Even if we disagree with him, he is still there. Since monarchies also rely heavily on Familial rights, he is also like the Patriarch of a Family, who, whether you agree with them or not, stands as head of a large family, and makes us all feel connected to each other, as well.

    A King is able to unite the people precisely because the people did not elect him, and he has no rivals from whom the people unite behind unless there is a revolt.

    A King may also stand on Principle, for he is not beholden to any for his power, and need not acquiesce to their vision for his own ascension.

  7. In a Republic, this is not the case. The Politician is ever subject to the whims of the Party he is a member of, and reliant on them for votes. They pressure him into taking certain stances in order to advance. For example, Bill Clinton was once Pro-Life, and opposed Abortion. He was told in no uncertain terms that he would never be permitted to serve as anything outside of the State of Arkansas as a Democrat unless he accepted the Party's official position about "Women’s Reproductive Rights", and so he began to support Abortion in order to seek higher placement in the National Democrat party, and this was rewarded by him eventually being supported, and winning the presidency.

    Clinton placed his advancement above his convictions, and in a Republic this pays off. Political parties hold positions and your either in or out.

    Politicians also rely heavily on those voter blocs who turn out in large number to support one party and that party only. Had Clinton been a Republican, even if all his policies were the same, he'd not have won the numbers he did amongst Unions, Hispanics, Blacks, the Entertainment Industry, or the ACLU, or Trial Lawyers. They vote solidly Democrat, just like the NRA, Family Values groups like the AFA, and the Chamber of Commerce tends to vote Republican. In exchange those interest groups are supported by the elected party by giving them largess or law reform that favours them.\

    Its all a game, and people know this, and try to manipulate the politician by petitions, and forming large special interest groups, or lobby groups, which yield an enormous amount of power by gaining massive financial ability, and subsequently offering that financial power to Candidates and parties if they go along, and by being able to mobilise its members to effect the outcome of elections . This means they view the Politician not as a person, but as a sort of object they can use to get their way. A living symbol of their voting blocs power or financial backing.

  8. Politicians also thrive in a sort of conflicted society. The entire system requires there be at least two parties, and the left party will always demonise the right party in order to look better, or deflect from the real issues. They must use the language of hatred and blame in order to get the emotional reaction they need for the voters, to energise them to vote, and vote for them, or often, against the right party who they say will bring them ruin if they on the right win. The Left must win to stop the evils of the right. The right party will do the same thing, only blaming the left. Without the other party to blame for losses or to pick apart, they don’t gain anywhere near the urgency and the people loose interest, thus the Politician looses political capitol. It is in the politicians best interest to keep society polarised. They need the emotional reactions in order to secure the votes and thus the “Legitimacy” of their new agenda’s.

    They need to demonise their opposition in order to generate such interest in the voters, and besides, when they are thinking in such emotional terms, either by voting in favour of the Euphoria of a bold new world of promise and prosperity, or against the threat of ruin and despair should the other side win, they are much easier to rile up and to manipulate into going along with your scheme.

  9. Even if it wasn’t, polarisation is inevitable since one party will try to one up the other and will demonise the opponents of their plan in order to silence them. How can you have a Unified society in this system? It exists base don the polarisation of people!

    Wells is also quiet right, the system is also flawed even in theory.

    I live in Tennessee, and as an example I will use my own Senators.

    I have nothing against either Bob Corker or Lamar Alexander, and in fact think they are doing wonderfully at their task as Senators, but not all agree, and many dislike Corker, or Alexander; Some even dislike both. When I think about it, how does Corker represent those of us in Tennessee who do not really like him? How does Alexander?

    How does a Politician actually represent those who voted against him, and whose stances on issues are opposed to his own? In what way does the elected official, who will enact laws either according to his own decisions, or else in accordance to what opinion polls say is popular, represent those who are not in favour of such changes? Also, why does a majority dictate what is and is not right? Why should my ideas be given power to be enacted based soley on the fact that there were more people who agreed with me than didn’t in the last election?

    It makes no real sense.

  10. Thinking of the reverse, since I supported Corker and Alexander, I look at Obama. Here I consider the problem with the Majority of voters telling me what is and is not right.

    I use now the example of this problem found in Barrack Obama.

    I oppose Barrack Obama's socialist and far left policies, from his staunch support for Abortion, to his need to take over health care ( And like may force me to pay for abortions, along with other taxpayers) to his Cap And Trade nonsense, to his claim that the Government needs to intervene and take over private corporations. I oppose it all.

    I did not vote for Obama. I do not think he is qualified to hold the office he hold. Yet, because 53% of the electorate voted for him, he is my president and represents me. How can he really represent me when we share nothing at all in common as to our concerns and our aspirations? Why does he represent me soley because he was elected President?

    I've thought of these problems long before Obama too. How can an elected official truly represent those who voted against him, especially if they have firm, important stands on issues and disagree with him?

    Further, as Wells also noted, why is my private opinion about how things ought to be somehow magically more significant and important if I just so happen to find that the majority, even a slim majority, agrees with me on it? Why does a man hold absolute authority to enact laws or serve as a leader based soley on the fact that he won a popularity contest? Why does the majority have absolute sway? On what ground are my ideas less important and less relevant simply because 51% of the population disagreed?

    Suppose I never change my views on things. Will my ideas vacillate throughout life between being good or bad, depending on who won the last election? How is that sensible?


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