The Lost Mandate of Heaven: The American Betrayal of Ngo Dinh Diem

The Lost Mandate of Heaven


Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2015
ISBN 978-1-58617-933-9



During the administration of John F. Kennedy, the CIA planned the downfall of the President of South Vietnam, thus opening the door to a war that was disastrous for the United States.

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.

According to many American historians, President Diem was a corrupt leader whose tyrannical actions lost 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.

Military historian Geoffrey Shaw runs contrary to the above commonly held assertion.

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, and he points out in the Preface that:

"Did I find a veritable draconian '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."

James V. Schall, S.J., Professor Emeritus, Georgetown University, discloses in the Foreword that this President's personality and policies are substantially different from the ones that Kennedy and his advisers portrayed to the world following the tragic events:

"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 battlegrounds, but on political and moral grounds. The Vietnam War need not have been lost. Overwhelming evidence supports it."

Video on sale: Liberator of Asia: The True Story of Ngo Dinh Diem (1-800-651-1531)
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