426. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson 1

Here’s the letter from Senator Dodd on our Congo policy2 that Bob Komer warned you about. Dodd’s meeting with Tshombe in Brussels last week triggered it.

Dodd alleges that State is working against Tshombe, whom he views as the key to Congolese stability. Dodd has been a Tshombe man ever since Tshombe led Katanga province into secession and we opposed in order to keep the country together as a viable unit. He says he thought State had accepted Tshombe after he returned as prime minister last July and we helped him put down the rebellion. But now Dodd sees signs that we’re ditching Tshombe and backing President Kasavubu against him. Dodd hopes the KasavubuTshombe rivalry will quiet down, but if it doesn’t he feels strongly we should back Tshombe.

The problem is that Dodd gets most of his information from Tshombe and Struelens, his Washington lobbyist. Bob Komer and the State people clued him fully last winter and thought they’d won him over (as he admits in his letter). But every time Tshombe or Struelens gets to him, he swallows their line again.

I’m attaching a point-by-point comment on his facts,3 but the basic point is that we have backed Tshombe solidly and still are. It’s fair to say that we’ve done more for him in the past year than for any other African leader. We agree with Dodd that the Congo could easily become our number one African headache, so we made a major military, covert, diplomatic and economic effort to help Tshombe put down the rebellion, cut off outside support, improve his African image and begin rehabilitation. Now, the back of the rebellion is broken (though one area is still to be liberated), and we’re getting down to business with the new Belgian government on longer range military and administrative programs to get the Congo on its feet.

Since the current KasavubuTshombe sparring began in earnest last February, we’ve turned ourselves inside out to keep Kasavubu from firing Tshombe and to keep Tshombe from trying to take the presidency from Kasavubu. We agree with Dodd that this sparring could [Page 616] trigger a major political crisis. We also agree that Tshombe is indispensable to getting the Congo on its feet, because he’s more of a doer than anyone else on the scene. However, we believe he’s helpful only if he works with Kasavubu since these two represent the two main power bases in the Congo. Unless they stick together, the Congo will split as it did when Tshombe went it alone in Katanga. So we don’t agree with Dodd that we can keep the Congo together by backing Tshombe alone.

I ought to mention, since Dodd attacks him, that Ambassador Godley has been a prime innovator and pusher of this policy. He has worked on the Congo since independence and naturally backed US and UN policy in opposing the Katanga secession, so Tshombe may well harbor lingering suspicions. It’s entirely possible too that Godley has his reservations about Tshombe as an individual. However, Governor Williams talked this problem out with Tshombe during his visit to the Congo last August, and Tshombe assured Williams that he could work with Godley. The record shows that Godley has accepted Tshombe as indispensable and has worked well with him. He has spent as much effort behind the scenes since February to persuade Kasavubu and his followers not to dump Tshombe as he has trying to keep Tshombe in line. Tshombe in Brussels last week told Ambassador Knight that he counts Godley as a “good friend” and says he told Dodd the same.

Komer and Wayne Fredericks at State had already asked Dodd for an appointment (probably early next week) before this letter arrived. So you could let them straighten Dodd out on his facts. We’ve had virtually no other Congressional flak on the Congo.

McGeorge Bundy 4
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Congo, Vol. XI, Memos & Miscellaneous, 1/65–9/65. Secret.
  2. Dodd’s letter to Johnson, dated August 24, is ibid., White House Central Files 1964–66, Confidential Files, CO 52, Republic of Congo (1964) (1965) (1967) (Restricted).
  3. Attached but not printed.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.