Buddhist Crisis

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The Buddhist Crisis as a Turning Point in the Vietnam War
March 24, 2013

There were several events during the Vietnam War that can be considered “turning points”, which can be described as the occurrence of an event that changed the course of history. One such event was the Buddhist crisis in 1963. The Buddhists of South Vietnam had experienced decades of religious persecution during French colonialism that continued with the Catholic government, which was backed by the United States (Toong, 2008). The demonstrations, protests and self-immolations that followed as a result of this religious persecution and the media coverage it generated encouraged the Kennedy administration to back a coup d’état against Ngo
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Diem’s reaction to this event was denying responsibility and he put the blame on communists. Despite repeated encouragement from the United States government to reconcile with the Buddhists, Diem remained unyielding and asserted that there was no presence of religious persecution (Toong, 2008). The height of the Buddhist crisis was reached when Thich Quang Duc ignited himself and burned to death in as a protest in the street in front of a large crowd in Saigon (Moss, 2010). The appalling images of the self-immolation of Thich Quang Duc were spread throughout the world by international media coverage. Demonstrations by the Buddhists and retaliation by the GVN continued to escalate to a point where the United States could no longer support the Diem government, which despite financial assistance that amounted to over $1,000,000 per day and the support of the American military, refused to cooperate (Toong, 2008). Subsequently, and dependent on Diem’s lack of response to pressure from the United States regarding the Buddhist crisis, the Kennedy administration decided to participate in a coup to overthrow him (Toong, 2008). The final straw was the pagoda raids on August 21 and Diem’s declaration of martial law with threats to shoot and kill Americans on the
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