403. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson1


  • Chiari statement: our next move
If you find the Chiari statement2 unhelpful and wish to back away from any resumption of relations, I think we should quietly but promptly let it be known that the Chiari statement has not increased our hopes. We could point quietly to his references to the contractual clauses of the treaty and his desire to solve all differences and all problems “once and for all.” We could also note his reference to “the necessary constitutional procedures,” which means a treaty. On this course, we should simply be back where we were, and you would be standing pat on your statement of last Saturday.3
A second course would be to say that you find the Chiari statement interesting but that we need to examine more closely the two OAS paragraphs before we come to a final agreement. On this course, we could put to the OAS language which does not mention the Panama Canal directly and which replaces the words “discussions and negotiations” by less fought-over phrases. Tom Mann thinks there is a fair chance of success in this course and that with luck he could win the OAS representatives back on to our side. I think Bill Moyers has language to propose on this course.
The third course is to decide that a prompt de facto resumption of relations is more important than the fact that any Panamanian politician will have to speak in terms somewhat like those which Chiari uses. If we make this view, then I would advise an immediate announcement along the lines of the draft statement attached.4

I think these choices are quite clear-cut, and I doubt if we need a long discussion of it.5

Mc.G. B.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. II. No classification marking.
  2. On March 24 Chiari issued a statement responding to Johnson’s public statement of March 21, agreeing in principle with the proposal to resume relations and begin talks, but reiterating his support for the OAS formula—see footnote 3, Document 402. A Department of State translation of Chiari’s statement, forwarded to the White House on March 25, is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 15–1 PAN.
  3. March 21; see Document 401.
  4. Not found attached.
  5. In a handwritten note at the end of the memorandum Bundy added: “P took still another course, a sort of III in which we try to resume without agreeing to 2-para formula.” In a telephone conversation with Bundy that evening, Johnson inquired whether Rusk was prepared to accept Chiari’s statement. Bundy responded: “I think—no sir, I don’t think that. I think he did not want to have us back away, and we’re not doing that, and I think I’ve talked to Tom [Mann] more recently than I have the Secretary, and he’s thought about it more. Tom, I think, will be very pleased with this thing—finding out what the hell they mean—and then going the course of trying to amend the two paragraphs in the light—in the general line that you approved tonight. I don’t think we’re going to have any trouble with the Secretary on this.” (Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and McGeorge Bundy, March 25, 7:32 p.m.; Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Tape F64.20, Side A, PNO 8)