480. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Komer) to President Johnson1

The Peru Matter. After further checking, I feel obligated to report back honestly my private feeling that countering the unfortunate news [Page 1007] leak runs too much risk of stirring up even more trouble—and of a setback to the promising course set in train by Rostow’s successful visit:

Disturbing as such leaks are, this one was a two-day wonder unnoticed in the country at large. But if we leak a counter-story, even as mild a one as Walt Rostow reluctantly suggests, we may open the whole issue up again. Will smart-aleck reporters like Kurzman2 and Eder settle for the Rostow line or start digging again? Our quiet deal with Belaunde also undermined Bobby Kennedy and others, who were planning to speak out on Peru—we might stir them up again.
On the merits, we got the maximum politically possible from Belaunde on the IPC case. Moreover, things are going our way in Peru. Stirring up the IPC case again might put us right back in an impasse again.
Should we penalize Belaunde, who acted in good faith? We still want to be tough with Peru, but (as Tom Mann proposes) it’s better to shift the argument to the much firmer ground of needed self-help and anti-inflation measures. If we press hard on these lines, no one can legitimately complain.
We could keep Peru on a short rein by stretching out the four small loans (actually totalling only $15 million, since the rest is local currency), and saying that any help beyond this would depend on adequate self-help. Putting out this story 4–5 weeks from now when the first loan was ready for signature would create no problems.
Then in six months or so, if all goes well, we’ll have ample opportunity to correct the record by demonstrating how the hard line on aid has paid off in such countries as Pakistan, India, Turkey, Colombia, Brazil, and Peru.

I have no special axe to grind on this Peruvian affair, and I fully realize the problems created by loose talk. It doesn’t come from over here. But in this case correcting the record may hit the wrong culprits.3

R. W. Komer
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. 19. Secret. A notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
  2. The Washington Post.
  3. The President wrote the following note at the end of the memorandum: “I agree—go ahead.” In telegram 854 to Lima, March 9, the Department instructed Jones to tell Belaúnde his assurances that IPC would not be “further impaired” were satisfactory; and the U.S. Government would consider individual AID project loans “on their merits,” including the Cooperación Popular community development loan of $2.1 million. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Peru, Vol. II, 1/66–10/67) Jones relayed this message to Belaúnde on March 17. (Telegram 1303 from Lima, March 10; ibid.)