346. Telegram From the Embassy in Poland to the Department of State1

1513. Ref: Warsaw 1508.2

I opened by saying that my presentation was going to be unusually lengthy but that I felt it important at this stage to have before the Polish Govt as full a statement of the USG position as possible. I then commenced reading statement in reftel.
After para 9, Rapacki asked where the missile sites are that our pilots are authorized to hit. I answered that I did not know their specific location but I presumed that they were in vicinity of vehicle depot and railroad yards.
When I finished reading the first sentence of para 12 reftel (saying Polish Govt must bear responsibility), Rapacki banged his fist on the table vigorously and in great agitation said, “Stop! I will hear no more of this.” In angry tone, Rapacki said he categorically rejected this attempt to shift responsibility to Poles, that responsibility is squarely on us for destroying chance for peace talks, and that our attempt to shift responsibility is wholly unprecedented and unwarranted.
I started to fold my notes but Rapacki, the storm having receded, said that he was keenly disappointed in what I had said so far because he had anticipated, when I asked for appointment today, that I had information to present to him that would be helpful in reducing the suspicions in Hanoi that had led to their asking the Poles to break off these discussions. I said I wanted to express our continuing desire to move toward peace and our conviction that best road to take is one of direct discussions with Hanoiʼs representatives. (Thus I resumed reftel remarks starting with para 14 and continuing through para 18.) (Comment: Inasmuch as Rapacki had gotten point on responsibility and given his reaction to the first sentence, I thought it best to pass over remarks from second sentence para 12 through para 13.)
Rapacki referred to our last meeting in which he had said it was difficult to believe words of USG representatives as they relate to position of USG and that in future Poles would be influenced only by facts. “Yet I find in your remarks,” he said, “no facts.” He said that USG, after nullifying that possibility of meeting NVN representatives in Warsaw, is ignoring everything that has happened and maintaining that nothing has happened; this in total disregard of everything that brought on nullification. [Page 959] He said, “Nothing in your statement is a new fact, even the last paragraph referring to holiday suspension of bombing.” He added, “You must realize that this suspension of bombing is taking place during a period of escalation; that taking up Warsaw talks during holiday suspension, immediately after intensification of bombing and in midst of escalation, could give rise to misgivings and suspicions in Hanoi that such meetings were result of military pressure.” He alluded to the statement he had previously attributed to Lodge that US wants to avoid impression that talks are response to bombing suspension. Yet, he said, all USG actions are contrary to Lodge; “What you have said to me today does not dispel the concern that negotiations now would be the result of bombing pressure.” He noted that after experience of first part of this month, we have to take account of sensitivity of Hanoi.
Rapacki said that only conclusion he could draw from our assertion that our bombs did not fall on residential districts of Hanoi is that military has not informed the govt of the character and facts of the bombing. He said, “I could admit to this idea, but I also must assume that you transmitted to your govt accurately our concern about the negative impact that bombing of Hanoi and the escalation of bombing of NVN would have on the possibilities of Warsaw talks. Having been warned of this and having accepted responsibility for the bombing intensification that occurred, there is no basis whatsoever for allegations that it is our responsibility.”
Rapacki added that in Saigon Lewandowski had declared in a most formal way that bombing should be stopped in any case. He added that in subsequent Warsaw meetings they had told us that we had weakened our position because of the interpretation clause; that we had changed our position. “Now,” he said, “you want to shift to Poles responsibility for introducing new elements.”
“As to bombing,” he said, “we have warned repeatedly against escalation at precise time discussions are under consideration; yet you went right ahead and escalated your bombing. Having done so you assumed responsibility and your attempt now to shift it to us is unprecedented and cynical.”
With respect to bombing of Hanoi, he said bombing of railroad yards was presumably more important to USG than chance for peace. He said not just Poles but the whole world press is outraged by this. He repeated what he had said during previous meetings that this Dec. 3 resumption of bombing “came precisely when we received more than a signal from Hanoi.” He added that Poles did not put forth new conditions but “recalling speeches of Goldberg, the President, Secy Rusk and others, once we received the signal we did we would have had every right to call for a stop in the bombing.” He said, “You have said over and over again that you would end all bombing if there was an assurance [Page 960] from Hanoi that there would be a response toward peace from Hanoi; however, we did not ask that you stop bombing but only that you not intensify it.”
With respect to bombing of city of Hanoi, Rapacki read from what he referred to as “on the spot report from ICC in Hanoi” saying that a workingmanʼs residential district called Fukton (phonetic) was completely destroyed; two trade union buildings, university, and Chinese Embassy were damaged, and bombs fell 200 meters from Polish Embassy. He said in face of this evidence it is hard to take seriously the assertion that there is no evidence our bombs fell in Hanoi.
I said that since our last meeting I have consulted with Washington on all matters relating to our last two conversations, that we had made an exhaustive study aimed at determining whether or not our bombs landed in residential sections of Hanoi, and that not one shred of evidence had turned up to indicate that they did. I said I am further personally convinced that we have never during this war selected a residential area as a bombing target. All of our targets had been related to military activity and we have avoided many targets that could be designated as military simply because they were located in built-up areas. I said I served on a bomber during World War II and I know it is inevitable that occasionally the target is missed and a bomb goes astray, but we found no evidence that this happened on Dec. 13 and 14.
Rapacki said, “Your whole presentation today cannot be described except as confirmation of fears that USG has decided to withdraw from attitude expressed by Lodge, has chosen a brutal way to do this, and is now trying to twist facts and shift responsibility to Poland. I reject categorically,” he went on, “as outright cynical the statement on Polandʼs being responsible for postponement of Warsaw meetings. The Warsaw meetings were bombed by the U.S.”
Referring to suggestions I made in paras 16 and 17 reftel, he said, “I am astonished that at same time you accuse us of stalling talks, you ask us to help you get them going again.” He added that Poland rejects categorically our analysis, our accusations against Poland and the NVN side, and sees no new elements in last part of my statement. Inasmuch as NVN asked Poles to discontinue these discussions, what was new to justify returning to NVN on this matter? Rapacki continued, “I suspect that if we did approach Hanoi their response would be that USG has proposed nothing new which would overcome the reason why Hanoi asked for discontinuation of talks in the first place.”
I said it wasnʼt a question of something new as much as it was a question of bending every effort to bring two govts together to negotiate the end of this war. I continued that we should not deny the elementary fact that both sides in this war are continuing their military action, and neither side will let up until such time as they find some basis for gaining confidence that the other side prefers a negotiated peace to continued [Page 961] war. I added that the only way I know for the development of such confidence is for both sides to lay their positions side by side on a conference table, see how far they are apart, and make an attempt through negotiations to bring them together.
I said the longer we wait the worse the situation becomes, adding that reasons can always be found to keep negotiations from happening. I said that we must face the fact that unless we find some way to cut through and get negotiations started bombing and military action will go on and on, making it increasingly difficult to find a solution.
I said we should realize that antagonists in a war are naturally suspicious of each other. I added that I have a firm knowledge and personal conviction that President Johnson is deeply committed to negotiating a peaceful solution to the war, but I cannot frankly say that I have the same confidence in Hanoiʼs desire for negotiations. Many people in the U.S. and elsewhere believe that Hanoi is not interested in negotiation; that NVN officials want to continue the war because of their expectations that the U.S. will eventually lose its will to continue and Hanoi will thereby win by default. I added that from our conversations I gained some hope that Hanoi wanted to enter negotiations, but frankly I was not confident that this was the case.
I said that until we can get both sides together this confidence will never develop. I continued, this is your basic reason for trying again with Hanoi; to convince them to at least start the negotiations. If the peace negotiations fail we havenʼt lost anything, but we cannot hope to gain until we get the two sides together.
Rapacki referred again to absence of anything new and asked how I expected Hanoi to change its position of last week when Poles were asked to break off discussions. I said I hope there was somebody making as strong a presentation and putting as much pressure on Hanoi to come to the negotiating table as the Poles were putting on us. Rapacki replied with reference to those who are attempting to convince Hanoi to come to the negotiating table, saying whenever they feel that they are making progress the U.S. bombs their efforts.
At the end Rapacki had mellowed a bit, saying that of course if we convey to Hanoi everything you told us today we will destroy any possibility of their engaging in negotiations. Rapacki did not say Poles would take any further action; neither, however, did he say they would not.3
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–14 VIET/MARIGOLD. Top Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Marigold. The source text does not indicate the time of transmission; the telegram was received at 9:06 p.m.
  2. Document 345.
  3. The Department of State responded to this telegram and telegram 1508 (Document 345) in telegram 105909 to Warsaw, December 20, proposing that Gronouski return to Washington for a day or two of consultations. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–14 VIET/MARIGOLD)