246. Memorandum From President Nixon to his Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

It is quite clear from reading Sihanouk’s letter to Mansfield2 that Sihanouk has become a captive, perhaps a willing one, of the Communists, lock, stock and barrel. Be sure that a copy of this letter is, in confidence, given to Rogers and to Helms, but if you will re-read the letter carefully you will find that it parrots the Communist line in virtually every respect. My guess is that the Chinese would never let him get it out unless it had been a letter along these lines, but it is also very possible that this reflects his own personal views. Perhaps you can think of a way, or Helms can, that the substance of his communication, without revealing the Mansfield source, gets around in places where it would hurt him.


Letter From Norodom Sihanouk to Senator Mike Mansfield

In this so dark and so painful period in the life of the Cambodian people and of mine, your voice, Senator, was raised again in defense of truth and justice. If your government and so many others had listened to the voice of wisdom and human liberalism which was always yours, the peoples of Indochina and Indochina herself would have recovered peace in independence a long time ago. Unfortunately, wisdom and good sense have never prevailed since the end of the Indochinese war and the Vietnamese people first, then the Laotian people, finally the Cambodian people, have in spite of themselves soon fallen into a second war of Indochina, longer and more murderous yet than the preceding one.

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As far as my people and myself are concerned—and taking into account the egoism of certain great powers—an egoism that has allowed the installation in Phnom-Penh of an illegal, dictatorial, bellicist and racist government, practising genocide without precedent in modern history, with the exception of the monstrous crimes of the Hitlerian regime, we have no other recourse than an armed fight for national liberation and the triumph of justice, even if we have to obtain them at the price of an ideological change in Cambodia.

The most severe ideology—as long as it is based on social justice— is infinitely preferable to a regime composed of greatly corrupted people and anti-popular reactionaries who impose themselves upon the nation with guns and bayonets; through bluff and demagogy, through the odious and anachronistic awakening of a racism which had been asleep for many centuries, through the mass assassination of a national opposition, a mass genocide of a foreign and unarmed population and by lighting up of the fires of a war that the “vis-à-vis” (opposite number) has neither wanted nor provoked against our nation.

I do not know what our future will be but what I want to tell you here is that the Khmer people and myself will never forget what Senator Mansfield has done for us and for peace and justice in the world.

Pray, Senator, accept the assurance of my eternal gratefulness, of my very high consideration and of my everlasting friendship.

N. Sihanouk of Cambodia
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 341, Subject Files, HAK/President Memos, 1969–1970. Confidential. The memorandum is unsigned. Kissinger summarizes this message in White House Years, pp. 489–490.
  2. Although the letter was not attached, an unofficial translation is printed as an attachment. (Ibid, Box 506, Country Files, Far East, Cambodia, Vol. III, 10 April 1970–23 April 1970)