from the book
The CIAs Greatest Hits
by Mark Zepezauer
Long before the US military got involved
there directly, Vietnam was the CIA's war. At first they waged
it on behalf of the French, who struggled for nine years, from
1945 to 1954, to recapture their one-time colony (despite the
war's unpopularity with the French public).
Even with CIA mercenaries fighting alongside
the French, and air support from the CIA's Air America (at the
time, the largest "private" airline in the world), the
effort proved tobe in vain.
The 1954 Geneva Accords temporarily divided
Vietnam in preparation for elections in 1956. But the US wasn't
interested in elections.
In the North, CIA "psywar" expert
Ed Lansdale spread the rumor that the US was planning to nuke
the area. This, along with other, similar tactics, created an
exodus of over one million refugees, who were ferried to the south
by CIA ships and planes.
In the South, the CIA wrote a constitution
for "South Vietnam" (which had never been considered
a separate country before), installed Ngo Dinh Diem and gave him
the job of crushing anyone who had opposed the French.
US support for Diem was based on the belief
that he was the one politician in Vietnam who would never negotiate
with Ho Chi Minh. When, after nine more years of futile warfare,
even Diem found such negotiations desirable, he was tossed aside
as casually as he'd been put in place. In November 1963, he was
deposed in a CIA-sponsored coup, then assassinated.
In 1945, one US intelligence agent had
described Ho Chi Minh as the "strongest and perhaps the ablest
figure in Indochina, and...any suggested solution which excludes
him is...of uncertain outcome." Unfortunately, such insights
were ignored in Washington as the Cold War solidified.