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John B. OakesJohn B. Oakes
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war. But the right wing pressure and the heat was so great that after the assassination of Diem -- which occurred a few weeks, of course, before the assassination of J.F.K. [President John Fitzgerald Kennedy] -- the Times and I personally were accused of being responsible for the assassination of Diem, because all during that year, 1963, the Times had been so critical editorially of the Diem government, and increasingly so.




I don't mean that I was accused of having pulled the trigger, but I do mean that the right wing in this country was very strongly supportive of all-out American support of the South Vietnamese government, no matter what kind of government. When I say I personally was accused of the responsibility for the assassination of Diem, that is only a slight exaggeration, but we were accused of building up -- because our opposition to that government was so strong -- of promoting and encouraging what happened there. Anyway, that's really incidental to the evolution of the policy as it was forming in my mind.

So in the late days of the Kennedy administration and, of course, very much in the early days of the [President Lyndon Baines] Johnson administration in late '63, '64, I felt, with my associates at the time -- we became more and more concerned with what looked to us like -- and what was clearly by 1964 -- a very unwise escalation of American military strength. Whereas I felt that what the U.S. ought to be putting all its emphasis on was the effort to negotiate with the North Vietnamese in what looked to me increasingly like civil war, as distinct from an invasion by the Soviet Union, in effect, or by the Communist world -- into South Vietnam. So we didn't argue that the United States should just pull out all of a sudden. That didn't seem either practical or, for that matter, even honorable. But what

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