With the "Gulf of Tonkin" incident fresh on everyone's minds earlier in August of 1964, the wheels of escalation for our role in Vietnam were becoming more apparent by the minute.
Reminded that the U.S. had been "involved" in the former French colony since their departure in 1954, Secretary of State Dean Rusk lightly tap-danced around a subject which seemed inevitable at the time; how much further were we going to get involved?
John Hightower (Associated Press): “Do you think the United States may have to take a larger political responsibility if the government crisis in Saigon continues?”
Dean Rusk: “I think the basic political responsibility must rest with the South Vietnamese. And our sounding of the opinions of the leaders of the various groups there make it clear to us that they do have, fundamentally, a common objective insofar as the Viet Cong are concerned. Now they have differences of view on how the government ought to be organized and who ought to be in particular positions as among the parties, the military, Buddhist and Catholic and other elements there. But we have no doubt at all about the underlying commitment of all important elements with respect to the Viet Cong.”
And since the CIA staged the coup in 1963 that removed the previous regime in South Vietnam anyway . . .
You get the picture.
We were up to our necks early on and there was nowhere to go but down.
If we knew then what we know now. . . But hindsight is what reviewing history is all about.
And that's what was going on this particular August 30th in 1964. Dean Rusk appears on Meet The Press via the NBC Radio weekend series Monitor.