4. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Johnson1


  • Necessary Actions in Connection with the Marigold Project
As you know, Rapacki on December 29 told Gronouski that Hanoi was definitely not prepared for direct talks, despite our undertaking to suspend bombing within ten miles of the center of Hanoi for an indefinite period. Rapacki claimed that Hanoi believed that our bombing, particularly of December 13–14, showed clearly that we were not in good faith in seeking talks. Rapacki thinks the possibility of getting conversations started through the Poles is now dead.2
We do not recommend any new approach to Rapacki or any revision of our offer of December 24.3 The question remains, however, whether we should continue to refrain from bombing within ten miles of the center of Hanoi.
Meanwhile, we have disturbing information that—in addition to the Italians and the Soviets—the Poles have given the Pope “all details” as of approximately December 23, and that on December 23 the Poles gave U Thant an account of events through December 16.4 Finally, the Canadians informed us yesterday (January 2)5 that on December 28 U Thant had “in utmost confidence” informed the Canadian UN representative of the account the Poles had given him on December 23.
We do not know exactly what the Pope has been told, but it is reasonable to suppose that it is the same as the account to U Thant and the Canadians. This we do have, and the full Canadian report is attached as Tab A. While generally accurate in chronology, this report certainly gives the impression that we torpedoed the possibility of direct talks by our bombings. It glosses over completely Rapacki’s haggling between December 5 and December 11 on the interpretation question, and it omits completely all the events since December 16, including our undertaking of December 24.
In the light of these known disclosures, we believe the danger is now acute that the Pope, U Thant, and the Canadians all believe we were badly in the wrong. There is a second, and almost equally serious, danger—that the widening of the circle may lead at any moment to a public disclosure in some fashion highly unfavorable to us. U Thant in particular is emotional and not always discreet, and however closely the matter may have been held in all three quarters (not to mention Rome), a leak or intentional disclosure is now all too likely.
For these reasons alone, we now recommend that we given the Pope, U Thant, and the Canadians a full account of the whole episode up to this point, along the lines of Tab B.6 In the case of the Pope and U Thant, Goldberg and our Ambassador in Rome should handle this—without [Page 12] indicating our knowledge that they already have some information—on the basis that we believe they should have a full account. With the Canadians, who have come to us virtually asking for a full picture, we would simply be providing this to them.
The second immediate action question concerns our bombing pattern. Even though Rapacki assumes Marigold is dead, it is possible that Soviet intervention could still bring about some forward motion. We have given the Soviets a strong justification of our line of conduct (Bundy to Zinchuk on December 22 and 27, Thompson briefly to Dobrynin on December 30),7 including a full statement of our undertaking not to bomb within ten miles of the center of Hanoi. Even though the Soviets (Dobrynin to Thompson) purport not to understand our actions, they apparently do understand our difficulty with the Poles, and if the situation remains undramatic with respect to the bombing for an additional period, it is just possible that they would be able to get something going again. I myself will be talking to Dobrynin within the next two or three days and will spell out our basic willingness for bilateral talks, with a full explanation of why we have acted as we have up to this point. This hope alone would warrant continuing our undertaking with respect to Hanoi. Moreover, with U Thant emotional, any renewal of bombing in the Hanoi area might drive him over the edge and cause him to make a public disclosure.
Indeed, we believe that the over-all situation should cause us not only to refrain from bombing within ten miles of the center of Hanoi but to avoid for the time being any dramatic attacks on North Vietnam, particularly if these may involve civilian casualties. I have asked Secretary McNamara to review current authorizations to see if this guideline would require any change. He joins me in recommending:
Adhering to the undertaking not to bomb within ten miles of the center of Hanoi.
Avoiding any dramatic attacks on the lines defined above.
A third, and somewhat lesser, question concerns the Indian suggestion for a meeting of the ICC nations in the near future. The Canadians have specifically asked for an expression of our attitude on this initiative in view of Marigold. I have told them tentatively that we believed the ICC project has merit in any event, since it might open the way to discussions on Cambodia or other less sensitive topics. As to the poles, Gronouski has told Rapacki that the ICC project could be useful and could also serve to camouflage anything that may happen under Marigold. To the Indians we have consistently encouraged the [Page 13] project.8 In light of the specific Canadian requests, I recommend that we now reiterate in categorical terms our favorable attitude, to all three nations.
In summary, we recommend the following actions:9
Informing the Pope, U Thant, and the Canadians fully on Marigold.
Maintaining our undertaking not to bomb within ten miles of the center of Hanoi, and avoiding any dramatic bombing attacks elsewhere in North Vietnam.
Reiterating to the Canadians, Poles, and Indians that we take a completely favorable view of a possible ICC initiative.
Dean Rusk10
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–67, POL 27–14 VIET/MARIGOLD. Top Secret; Marigold. The date is handwritten on the memorandum and a note indicates that Rusk saw it. The memorandum was used at a luncheon meeting that day with the President, Rostow, and McNamara which lasted from 1:35 to 4 p.m. (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary) A substantive record of the meeting has not been found. On December 15, 1966, Paul Martin, Canadian Foreign Minister, suggested using the offices of the International Control and Supervisory Commission to bring about the opening of peace talks. As an initial step, he proposed a meeting of the ICC representative nations (Canada, Poland, and India) to begin the process of mediating the conflict without the venue of a formal conference (which the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was reluctant to enter into at this point). (Telegram 105378, December 19, and telegram 105380, December 19, both to Ottawa; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–67, POL 27–14 VIET S) Martin had received a proposal from the Indian Government for a meeting of the ICC in New Delhi. See Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. IV, Document 351.
  2. The conversation was reported in telegram 1596 from Warsaw, December 30, 1966; for text, see ibid., Document 355.
  3. See ibid., Document 351.
  4. Also reported in telegram 1596 from Warsaw; see footnote 2 above.
  5. Rusk discussed the Marigold initiative with Canadian Ambassador C.S.A. Ritchie on January 2. Tab A not printed, is the memorandum of conversation of the meeting.
  6. Tab B, not printed, was a draft of a full account of Marigold to be given to the Pope, U Thant, and the Canadians. The British and the Italians also received briefings. Instructions for and reports of these briefings are in telegram 3458 from USUN, January 3; memorandum for the record, January 5; telegram 114278 to Rome, January 6; and telegram 112886 to Rome, January 8. (All National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/MARIGOLD)
  7. See Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. IV, Document 354.
  8. On January 4 Secretary of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs T.N. Kaul met with the DRV Consul General in New Delhi. The Consul General asserted that “if America stops bombing of North Vietnam unconditionally and indefinitely, this would lead to cessation of hostilities and other steps.” The Indians considered the Consul General’s statement “more than a whisper” and told Ambassador to India Chester Bowles that Washington should respond to this overture. (Telegram 113614, January 6; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/NIRVANA) On January 13 Kaul received word from the Indian Consul in Hanoi that the North Vietnamese had called for a quiet extension of the Tet cease-fire, after which the United States and South Vietnam could enter into negotiations with the NLF, the conclusion of which the DRV would abide by. (Telegram 1003/2/from New Delhi, January 13; ibid.) However, news of Kaul’s intercessions reached the press that day. Given North Vietnamese sensitivities, the publicity effectively ended the channel. (Telegram 118714 to New Delhi, January 13, and telegram 10228 from New Delhi, January 18; ibid.) On January 30 Bowles reported that the North Vietnamese Consul told Kaul that Hanoi was “prepared” to enter into negotiations once the bombing of North Vietnam ended. The Government of India was considered the DRV statement to have been a “serious move reflecting a genuine desire of Hanoi govt to reach a settlement acceptable to both sides.” (Telegram 10807 from New Delhi, January 30; ibid.)
  9. None of these recommendations is checked, although apparently were approved at the luncheon meeting.
  10. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.