7. President Kennedy’s record on Vietnam is unclear.

Many would like to believe that President Kennedy was committed to getting U.S. Forces out of Vietnam and that is why he was murdered by the powers that be. Oliver Stone makes this case, rather disingenuously, in JFK (1991), in part by citing a small piece of an interview that Walter Cronkite conducted with the President on September 2, 1963. Stone shows his viewers Kennedy saying how the war will be won or lost by the Vietnamese, “they’re the ones who have to win it or lose it;” as if this was all Kennedy had to say on the matter. Stone very deliberately leaves out what Kennedy said on the other side of the issue – “but I don’t agree with those who say we should withdraw. That’d be a great mistake. That’d be a great mistake.” – as seen at the end of this YouTube clip:

Stone and his ilk also like to claim that JFK had signed orders to begin pulling troops out of Vietnam and after he was killed, President Johnson rescinded those orders. It is true that Kennedy tentatively planned to rotate 1,000 of the 16,000 men then in Vietnam out by the end of the year, but this was contingent on the conditions on the ground improving and it was deliberately not announced to the public because Kennedy knew he might need to do what Johnson ended up doing; rescinding the order.

The really important point here is that Kennedy went along with the overthrow of the South Vietnamese President, Ngo Dinh Diem, at the beginning of November, 1963; just three weeks before Kennedy was murdered. JFK did no order Diem removed from office, but he did nothing to stop it, which gave a green light to the South Vietnamese Military, as they saw it. Kennedy was shocked when Diem was murdered, rather than simply removed from power, and he knew he was not blameless for this. Ken Burns’ documentary series on The Vietnam War did an good job of covering this, with some of the actual audio recordings of JFK and others at the White House, discussing the matter and its aftermath.

This is critically important because Diem, despite his unpopularity, was the strongest leader South Vietnam had and they were scrambling to regain ground after his death. One person who was not a supporter of removing Diem was Vice President Johnson, but he was left to deal with the mess once he became President. It is not unreasonable to think that Kennedy would have followed a similar course as Johnson, had he been presented with the same situation that Johnson faced. At the very least, it would be foolish to assume that Kennedy had some master plan to get out of Vietnam, which he told to no one, or that he had made up his mind once and for all on the subject. It was an evolving conflict and Kennedy may or may not have handled it better than the Presidents who followed him. There was certainly no incentive for anyone to assassination President Kennedy base on some clear understanding about what would or would not happen in Vietnam once JFK was dead.

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Return to the complete list of 55 reasons to accept that Oswald acted alone.

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