173. Editorial Note
In response to the recommendation of Donald Hornig for a Presidential statement affirming a “no first use” policy with regard to chemical and biological warfare (see Document 154), President Johnson requested that Walt Rostow investigate the possibility of such a statement. Spurgeon Keeny drafted a specific statement for Rostow to forward for clearance or comment by Secretaries Rusk and McNamara and ACDA Director Foster. The draft statement reads as follows:
“There should be no misunderstanding about our policy with regard to biological and chemical warfare. We have never used biological weapons, and we do not intend to initiate the use of biological weapons in the future. We have not engaged in gas warfare since World War I when such weapons were widely used, and we do not intend to initiate the use of gas warfare in the future. Riot control agents and herbicides, both of which are widely used by responsible governments, clearly do not fall in this category, and we have explained our position on them many times.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Subject File, Warfare, Chemical and Biological, Box 51)
In a March 10, 1967, note to Rostow, Keeny explained that he had kept Rostow’s memoranda to the three principals “very short since the principals and their staff know the background of this problem. Moreover, I did not want to appear to prejudice the questions one way or the other except to the extent of indicating Presidential interest in making a statement if it is acceptable to the principals.” (Ibid.) A copy of Rostow’s brief March 10 memorandum to the three principals, which transmitted the statement for clearance or comment, is ibid.
In a March 17 memorandum to Rostow, Katzenbach responded that he concurred in the proposed public statement but suggested that the last sentence be changed, as follows:
“Riot control agents that are widely used by police forces throughout the world, and herbicides that are commonly employed in many countries, clearly do not fall in this category, and we have explained our position on them many times.”
Katzenbach believed that his proposed change “would be more in line with our past statements and make it clear that these agents are widely used domestically and not solely by governments against people of other countries.” (Ibid.)