436. Telegram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State1

8082. US Participation in the Comite of 24. USUN 1140 and State 104302.2

On basis of our experience in Comite of 24 this year, we believe US should now proceed to leave Comite as was contemplated last January. Comite has produced absolutely no positive results, multiplies points of friction between US and Afro-Asian Group, and generally detracts from effectiveness and credibility of UN in whole colonial arena. Our decision should be made known in the final days of this session, either by a [Page 941] letter to the Pres of GA or by a statement in plenary; or, depending on circumstances, shortly after GA adjourns. Considerations are as follows:

There has been some improvement in procedures this year, which may be attributed in part to the consultations we held in January when we were considering leaving the Comite and in part to the chairmanship of Mestiri (Tunisia).
The Comite’s public proceedings have been improved compared with previous years. Mestiri has been a fair and competent Chairman. He has generally agreed to our requests that draft resolutions and other proposals not be put to vote in same meeting at which presented. He has also consistently upheld our right to speak and has been consistently fair when points of order were raised.
After we made known to Mestiri our opposition to an African trip this year, he succeeded in delaying the question and finally in avoiding any decision to go on such a trip in 1968.
The Comite met less often and displayed less energy during meetings. Since general product of Comite is bad, this diminution in activity may be considered an improvement.
Nevertheless the substantive work of the Comite of 24 continues to be very bad. It produces the worst resolutions in the United Nations and thus contributes to depreciation in the currency of resolutions, which would be serious enough even without the Comite of 24. Such resolutions are drafted primarily by radical Africans—e.g., Foum (Tanzania)—aided by the Soviets and radical Arabs such as Syria and Iraq. Moderate members in the Afro-Asian caucus sometimes try to tone them down, but they are almost invariably cowed into submission by the extremists. On certain flagrant miscarriages, such as a paragraph declaring US use of military bases in the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands as contrary to the UN Charter, moderates will screw up the courage to abstain; the result is that such outrageous provisions are adopted by a plurality instead of a majority. Paragraphs that are bad but not outrageous will usually carry by an overwhelming majority, due to simple fact that they emerge from Afro-Asian caucus, are supported by Communist members and acquiesced in by LA’s. Once AA caucus, which is dominated by extremists, presents a text to Comite, no change of any consequence is possible. As a result the US role is essentially defensive and negative while the Soviets have a propaganda field day. Pet Soviet items, such as foreign military bases and foreign economic interests which allegedly impede attainment of independence, continue to be subject of bad recommendations by Comite. Some moderates hold their [noses] but they do not oppose. Latin Americans in Comite are completely submissive to AA caucus. Such minor improvements as we are able to achieve are not worth the effort and are far overshadowed by generally bad product emerging from Comite on which we are a member.
Comite has accomplished nothing of substance during its entire existence. It is difficult to point to one independent territory which Comite [Page 942] helped on path to independence. Serious consideration of colonial question has diminished to point where only pro forma attention has been given to problems of populations and actual developments in area concerned. Comite recommendations are drawn up without consulting administering authorities and rammed through against their objections; consequently they achieve no result. Thus Comite’s product consists largely of unrealistic recommendations and anti-Western propaganda.
Based on this and previous years’ experience, there is little hope that situation in Comite will improve substantially. It is evident to us that Comite itself serves no useful purpose. A fortiori US presence on Comite is of no value, waste of our resources, and to use a cliché, counterproductive.
We recognize that there will be some adverse reaction from some of our African and Asian friends when we announce our decision to leave. We believe this could be minimized by discussing with them in advance the reasons for our decision. We can point out to them that our trial extension of our membership during this year produced no evidence that there could be any material improvement in Comite’s work. Furthermore, members of Comite are by now fully aware that it produces nothing of consequence and we doubt that their disappointment over our decision will be long lived. As for product of Comite it is not likely to get appreciably worse than it is now, whether we stay on or leave. In any case, we can participate on items involving US interests, as other non-members of Comite do. Moreover, we shall have an opportunity to participate in GA consideration of all these questions, and recent developments in Fourth Comite suggest that our chances for meaningful influence are better there than in Comite of 24—a point we can make in explaining our move to friendly Africans and Asians.
There is one point on which our withdrawal might have a disadvantage for US—Puerto Rico. We have until now been able to muster a majority against efforts to have Comite of 24 take up Puerto Rico. If we leave Comite, and—as is probable—our example is followed by Australia, Norway, Italy and perhaps UK, voting picture will change substantially. But the fact remains GA would have to reverse its earlier decision that Puerto Rico is not a dependent territory and we could concentrate our efforts in blocking a change there.
It is just possible our decision to leave Comite would bring about its demise or at least discredit it to the point where its activities would have even less influence, as is case with Apartheid Committee. Neither of these developments need cause US any pain.3

Wiggins 4
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 19 UN. Confidential.
  2. Documents 421 and 426.
  3. In telegram 285062, December 10, the Department of State concurred with the Mission recommendation to withdraw from the Committee of 24. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 19 UN)
  4. President Johnson appointed James R. Wiggins to succeed Ball on October 4; he presented his credentials on October 7.