Source: Roger Hilsman Recalls a Realistic Evaluation of the Situation in South Vietnam, 1963
. . . The Viet Cong took advantage of the preoccupation of the new regime with matters in Saigon to consolidate their holdings in the countryside and move into new ones. The new regime also set about to replace the incompetent and politically dangerous among the Diem-Nhu political appointees at the district and province levels and to reward its own men - and the Viet Cong also made the most of the resulting confusion. . . .
[T]he greatest shocks were not how effectively the Viet Cong moved to take advantage of the Diem-Nhu regime's past mistakes but the discovery of just how wild the statistics really were on which the United States had based so much optimism. On October 22, 1963, before the coup, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research had analyzed the statistics and concluded, not only that the trend was downhill, but that the statistics had started downhill in July, before the attack on the pagodas. . . .
But when the coup drew back the curtain, both sides of the argument were amazed at what the true picture really was. First, the Viet Cong had not really been "compressed" into the delta, but were merely lying low in the other regions while they concentrated on infiltrating strategic hamlets and gaining control from within. . . .
Second, a high percentage of attacks initiated by the government - the statistic on which so much American optimism had been based - had been mounted against "targets' where the Viet Cong were known not to be, as a means of inflating the statistics without risk of the casualties that would rouse Diem's ire. . . .
Third, the statistics on the number of strategic hamlets and on the number of villages under effective government control were completely false. Vice-President Nguyen Ngoc Tho, for example, informed us that of the 8600 strategic hamlets claimed under the Diem regime, only about 20 per cent actually met the standards. . . .
"Ah, les statistiques!" one of the Vietnamese generals exclaimed to an American friend. "Your Secretary of Defense loves statistics. We Vietnamese can give him all he wants. If you want them to go down, they will go down."