Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director of the Office of African Affairs (Bourgerie)1


Subject: Audience of the Honorable George C. McGhee, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian and African Affairs, with His Majesty, Sidi Mohammed ben Youssef, Sultan of Morocco, on September 30, 1950.

Participants: Mr. McGhee, NEA
Mr. Plitt, American Diplomatic Agent, Tangier
Mr. Bourgerie, AF
Mr. Kopper, NE 2
Mr. McBride, American Consul, Rabat
M. de Blesson, Secretary General to the French Resident General
M. Marchat, Diplomatic Counselor to the Resident General

The Assistant Secretary and members of his party were presented to His Majesty by M. de Blesson. The audience opened with an expression [Page 1748] of sympathy by the Assistant Secretary and the Diplomatic Agent on the recent catastrophe at Sefrou, Morocco. The Assistant Secretary and Mr. Plitt told His Majesty that they wished to convey to him their profound sympathy and to express their sincere condolences to the families of the victims of the flood at Sefrou.

His Majesty welcomed the Assistant Secretary to Morocco and expressed the best wishes of the Moroccan Government on the visit. Assistant Secretary McGhee replied expressing his pleasure at being in Morocco and reiterating our friendship with the Moroccan people. He stated that the United States was placing a steadily increasing importance on its relationships with the Islamic world and that we were fully aware of the growing importance of this area in world relations. The Sultan expressed gratification at this statement and indicated that he was fully in accord therewith.

The Sultan said that he was particularly pleased at the choice of Tangier for the regional conference of American diplomatic and consular officials, as he had great affection for this growing city of his empire. At the same time he emphasized the point that although Tangier was, at the present time, under a special international regime, it nevertheless formed an integral part of the Sherifian Empire. The Assistant Secretary thanked the Sultan for his welcome to the delegates to the Conference which was being held on Moroccan soil, and stated that we were, of course, fully aware that Tangier was a part of His Majesty’s empire.

The Sultan recalled the friendship which had developed between the Moroccans and the American soldiers following their arrival in Morocco in 1942. He mentioned with much pleasure his visit with President Roosevelt3 who, he said, was not only a great man at the time but had become a person of historical stature with the passage of time. He added that Mr. Truman had succeeded to a heavy charge following Mr. Roosevelt’s regretted decease. He asked Mr. McGhee to convey to Mr. Truman His Majesty’s best wishes for the President’s health, and the successful continuation of his presidency of the great nation which had been called upon to play such an important role in world affairs.

The Assistant Secretary assured the Sultan that it would be a pleasant duty to convey His Majesty’s good wishes to Mr. Truman. Mr. McGhee voiced the hope that the friendship established during the last war between the Moroccans and Americans would continue, [Page 1749] and that the Moroccans could be counted on in case it should again become necessary to take up arms against an aggressor.

The Sultan replied that the Moroccan people’s friendship for the United States could be relied upon in the future as in the past; that it was a friendship of long standing; and that he saw no reason why it should not continue.

The Assistant Secretary, expressing agreement with His Majesty, mentioned incidentally that our traditional friendship with the people of France must not be forgotten and observed that the French Government had assisted the American people in obtaining their independence. The Sultan stated that his country also owed a debt to France, since it had played such a large part in the economic development of his country. His Majesty also noted that the Moroccan Government had been the first to recognize the United States as an independent country in the eighteenth century.

There followed an exchange of views in regard to Communist threats not only to the tranquility of Morocco, but also to the peace of the world in general.

The Assistant Secretary stated that we consider Islam a very important barrier in the world struggle against Communism, and that he felt that the Moslem religion was antipathetic to the creed of Communism by its very nature. His Majesty pointed out that the tenets of Islam were fundamentally opposed to the Communist philosophy, and he added that god-worshipping people could never have anything in common with the godless.

Mr. McGhee then discussed our world-wide commitments in the struggle against Communism, emphasizing that we had responsibilities over a very wide area and, accordingly, could not concentrate entirely on any one region.

The Sultan stated that he was fully aware of our commitments throughout the world, and he wished to take this occasion to congratulate us on the success of our troops in Korea.4

The Assistant Secretary told the Sultan that this was not his first visit to Morocco, since he had been there some fifteen years ago and spent six months in the country. He said that tremendous progress had been made in Morocco since that time, and he congratulated the Sultan on this fact.

His Majesty confirmed that large scale development had taken place in Morocco during the past few years and was continuing at a rapid pace.

The Assistant Secretary emphasized that cooperation between the Moroccans and the French in the domain of economic, educational, [Page 1750] and social progress had been of inestimable benefit to the Sultan’s empire and had led to an integration of Arab and Western culture which could only redound to the benefit of both civilizations.

The Assistant Secretary also commented on the differences in the development of our cultural backgrounds and the fact that there was much in the fields of artistic endeavor which we could learn from Islam. He made particular reference to the beauty of the Sultan’s palace and remarked that it would be impossible to create such a structure in the United States today.

The Sultan referred to his projected trip to France, and indicated that he expected much good to come of it, particularly as a result of an exchange of views regarding Morocco with the President of the Republic of France. He said he hoped that, as a result of his trip, a better understanding of French-Moroccan relations would evolve for the benefit of both nations. The Assistant Secretary said that he hoped the Sultan would have a good voyage and a pleasant sojourn in France.

The Sultan told the Assistant Secretary how much he appreciated what the Voice of America, through its station at Tangier, was doing to influence world opinion and thought, and to guide the peoples of the world along democratic paths. He said that the Moroccans had displayed considerable interest in the VOA Arab language broadcast, and that this effort of the Department of State was well received by his countrymen. The Assistant Secretary said that he was pleased that the Sultan looked with such favor on this activity of the American Government.

The Sultan stated that it was his wish to decorate the Assistant Secretary with the Cross of Ouissam Alaouite, the highest order Morocco can offer, but he recalled from a previous experience that American diplomatic officials could not accept decorations. He asked whether the Assistant Secretary would be willing to receive an autographed photograph of himself. The Assistant Secretary expressed sympathy with the Sultan’s understanding of the restrictions on decorations and said that he would be very happy to have the Sultan’s photograph as a reminder of the gracious reception accorded him by His Majesty. In closing, the Assistant Secretary referred again to the close wartime collaboration which had existed between the Moroccan people and the United States and expressed the hope that this collaboration might continue. He also asked the Sultan whether there was any comment he wished to make as to means by which the United States might be helpful to Morocco. The Sultan replied that he believed that any additional comment by him was unnecessary, since he knew that we were already informed regarding the needs of Morocco.

[Page 1751]

The Sultan then rose from his throne and terminated the meeting with the exchange of the usual courtesies, and with an invitation to Mr. McGhee to repeat his visit to the palace, where he would always find a very warm welcome.

The meeting between Assistant Secretary of State McGhee and the Sultan exceeded the customary thirty or forty minutes usually allotted by palace protocol to such courtesy visits by more than a half hour, but the Sultan seemed quite content and anxious to have the meeting continue for a longer period of time. Throughout the meeting it was evident that the Sultan was somewhat inhibited by the presence of French officials, but as it progressed he seemed to relax considerably and shed some of the imperial restraint and formality that was evident in the early part of the interview. The Sultan made no secret of his understanding of what was being said to him in French before it had been translated into Arabic, as is customary in accordance with palace protocol.

Some of the Sultan’s remarks were somewhat complimentary to the French, but at the same time, he lost no opportunity to extoll the merits of the United States Government and its people. It was also evident that the Sultan considered Mr. McGhee’s visit an event which would not be overlooked by Nationalist officials. It was also evident that the visit would be interpreted broadly by Moroccans as a means of lending emphasis to the view that Morocco is still considered as a sovereign state even though for the present it is under French and Spanish protection in two zones, and under an international administration at Tangier.5

  1. Prior to and in connection with his attendance at the North African Diplomatic and Consular Conference at Tangier, October 2–7, Assistant Secretary of State McGhee and a small party of advisers visited a number of cities in Europe and North Africa including Casablanca on September 29 and Rabat on September 30. Regarding the McGhee tour, see the editorial note, p. 1550; for reports on the Conference at Tangier, see pp. 1569 and 1573.

    The source text was drafted by Bourgerie (one of McGhee’s party en route to Tangier), Edwin A. Plitt, the Consul General at Tangier, and Robert H. McBride, the Consul at Rabat. Though dated November 8, this memorandum was obviously drafted in Morocco before the McGhee party left for Washington. On November 24 McGhee sent a copy of this memorandum of conversation to Secretary Acheson with the recommendation that it be forwarded to President Truman. (711.71/11–2850) On November 29, William D. Hassett, Secretary to President Truman, sent a memorandum to McGhee thanking him for the memorandum of conversation and assuring him that the President would read it with much interest. (771.11/11–2950)

  2. Samuel K. C. Kopper, Acting Deputy Director, Near Eastern Affairs.
  3. For documentation on President Roosevelt’s meeting with the Sultan on January 22, 1943, during the Casablanca Conference, January 14–25, 1943, see Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Washington, 1941–1942, and Casablanca, 1943, pp. 692–693.
  4. Documentation concerning the Korean War is presented in volume vii .
  5. In despatch 117, from Rabat, October 2, the American Vice Consul Ernest L. Stanger also reported on McGhee’s visit. After summarizing the conversation with the Sultan, Stanger concluded:

    “Although the meeting took place under terms of strict protocol, it was nevertheless extremely useful for United States relations in Morocco. It can only be concluded that the net result of the Secretary’s remarks will be to improve relations with both the French and Moroccan elements in this country. Moroccans should take comfort from the extraordinarily friendly remarks which the Secretary made regarding the feeling of the United States for the people of this nation, while the French should be likewise gratified by his very friendly references to present and past relations between France and the United States.

    While as stated above, the Protectorate should certainly not in any sense be displeased by the visit of Secretary McGhee, the Moroccan people have also been indubitably pleased thereby, and there is no question that they would appreciate further and more extensive visits by Mr. McGhee to the French Zone. Unfortunately, however, immediately following his call on the Sultan, the exigencies of his schedule called for him to leave for Tangier. Nevertheless, the effect of even this brief visit to this city was of incomparable utility, both with regard to relations with the French Protectorate and vis-à-vis the Moroccans. Though it is fully realized that officials of our Government are undergoing a period of strain, it is still hoped that further visits of this nature may be undertaken.” (110.15 McG/10–250)