178. Memorandum From the Presidentʼs Deputy Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Komer) to President Johnson1

The Cambodian caper.2 On delving further into this, I have discovered a royal snafu.

  • First, Hayden, Fulbright and Aiken3 all referred this matter to the Vice President, as the titular presiding officer of the Senate. The Vice President was about to sign letters to Fulbright, Aiken and Mansfield pointing out that the Cambodians had withdrawn the invite. We have held this up.
  • Second, while Washington, Bangkok, Saigon, and even Peiping all interpreted the Cambodian radio broadcast of 24 February (an attack on Symingtonʼs criticism of VC use of Cambodia) as stating that the Cambodian government withdrew the invitation addressed by its Parliament to three U.S. Senators, a red-faced State Department, checking the French text yesterday, found out that the French word used also means “reminds.” They then went back this morning to the Cambodian original and found that the verb is in fact “reminds.” Thus the invite still stands.
  • Third, FE in State still feels strongly that we should not pick up the invitation because (a) the Thais and GVN would be sore as hops; (b) it would give Sihanouk another propaganda victory; (c) Fulbright says his committee is too busy to travel; and (d) the Mansfield expedition to Cambodia demonstrates how little can be accomplished through such contacts. Others, including Harriman (I am told), believe that it might be better simply to defer this matter and play for time, perhaps returning an interim answer that the Congress is too busy at this moment. They see merit in keeping open at least a tenuous channel to the Prince.
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Should we leave this to the Vice President, or do a letter on your behalf?

On the merits, would you prefer a soft deferral or a polite turndown?4

R.W. Komer
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Robert Komer, Vol. XXI, 3/2–30/66. Confidential.
  2. In a speech on January 30, Sihanouk took exception to Thai statements of widespread Khmer Serei popularity in Cambodia. Sihanouk charged that this was a view held by the United States and asked the U.S. Congress to send some of its members to conduct an on-the-spot investigation. On the same day, Senator Hayden received an invitation from the Cambodian National Assembly to send a delegation to investigate Khmer Serei versus Sihanouk popularity and charges of Cambodian santuary for the Viet Cong. (Memorandum from Thompson to Komer, March 11; ibid., Country File, Cambodia, Vol. IV, Memos, 10/65–9/67)
  3. Senators George D. Aiken (R) from Vermont and Carl Hayden (D) from Arizona.
  4. Johnson wrote the following note on source text: “Lets talk about this. Come in to see me. L.” Komer wrote the following note: “this superseded the later memo which the President approved. RWK.” Apparent reference to Document 179.