104. Notes of Meeting1

NOTES ON PRESIDENT’S TUESDAY LUNCHEON

THOSE ATTENDING THE MEETING WERE

  • The President
  • Secretary Rusk
  • Secretary Clifford
  • General Wheeler
  • CIA Director Helms
  • Walt Rostow
  • George Christian
  • Tom Johnson

Secretary Rusk: We ought to put a medal on George Christian and Bob McCloskey for the way they have handled the last few days.

The President: (Read proposed cable to Bunker and Abrams). Insert A.2

I want to know what the military view is of this—the military effects and morale.

I want to know if Abrams thinks we should stop the bombing.

How much can we tell the South Vietnamese?

Secretary Rusk: The first day—A. Bombing. B. Meeting.

Walt Rostow: The orders will have to go out twenty-four hours before.

General Wheeler: 9:00 a.m. Saigon time Saturday.3

Secretary Rusk: Yes.

General Wheeler: Should we refer to reconnaissance?

The President: Yes.

Walt Rostow: Reconnaissance will continue.

The President: When would we announce?

Secretary Rusk: It would be a joint announcement between you and Thieu.

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(Statement, Insert B)4

9:00 p.m. Friday, 9:30 Television Statement. Thieu will go on too.

The President: When do we stop?

Secretary Rusk: Noon our time Friday.

George Christian: It will leak Friday afternoon.

Secretary Rusk: Are the fellows out of North Vietnam?

General Wheeler: They are on their way.

Secretary Clifford: The actual date of the meeting should be in the message.

Walt Rostow: Would Thieu approve announcing having the GVN Representative at the meeting?—Bunker should ask him.

The President: Nixon will ask me if this isn’t like putting a fox in the chicken coop. [Laughter]5

Secretary Clifford: It seems Thieu gains enormously to have the GVN at the Table.

The President: We do, in effect, recognize them by letting them sit down with us.

Secretary Rusk: It’s about like letting Stokely Carmichael6 sit at Cabinet meeting.

Secretary Clifford: It still seems like greater benefit than detriment.

The President: Factually, that’s correct.

Secretary Rusk: Emotionally, that’s not correct.

Walt Rostow: The South Vietnamese are afraid of how we play them in Conference—push them toward accepting a slippery slope—jam into coalition government.

[Omitted here is a discussion of issues in relations with Latin American countries.]

The President: Are we agreed on the language of the announcement?

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Secretary Rusk: We do not want to negotiate a joint statement.

We should reserve question of timing.

The President: Do you feel the same way?

Secretary Clifford: Yes.

Walt Rostow: The GVN has gone to work soberly. We should make a checkout with Bunker.

Secretary Rusk: This is a little like Warsaw plan. If they see they can get a week out of us they will hold out.7

The President: You should see Dobrynin as soon as you can. (Secretary Rusk)

[Omitted here is discussion of a wide range of issues, including a decision to delay the withdrawal of military dependents from Vietnam.]

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson’s Notes of Meetings. No classification marking. The meeting was held in the mansion of the White House. Clifford, Rusk, Wheeler, Helms, and Rostow entered at 1:22 p.m., and lunch began at 1:35 p.m.; Rostow left at 2:22 p.m., Rusk and Helms at 2:24 p.m., and Clifford and Wheeler at 2:33 p.m. (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary)
  2. The text is the same as that transmitted in Document 105.
  3. October 26.
  4. This insert, dated October 21, reads: “Representatives of the so-called National Liberation Front—or others—may accompany the Hanoi delegation. I wish to make it crystal clear that neither the United States Government nor the government of the Republic of Vietnam in Saigon recognizes the NLF as an independent entity, let alone as a government. We shall deal with the other side as a team constituted as Hanoi authorities wish it to be constituted. Our side—that is, our own representatives and those of the Republic of Vietnam—will operate as a single closely coordinated team, with representatives of one or the other government taking the lead on specific issues, depending on their content and our respective interests and responsibilities.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. I [2 of 3])
  5. Handwritten bracketed insertion in the source text.
  6. A leader of the Black Panthers, a militant political organization in the United States.
  7. Reference is to the Marigold initiative conducted through Polish auspices. See Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, volume IV, passim.