261. Notes of a Meeting1

Mtg—RogersLairdK[issinger]–[Nixon and Haldeman]—in EOB

  • —called because Rogers complained didn’t know decision re COSVN was being made yesterday2 & that Laird shared his view.
  • Rogers case in mtg based on decision taken w/o consultation— clearly tried to hang K for inadequate info to P[resident] re consequences. Feels COSVN operation will cost great US casualties w[ith] very little gained. COSVN not permanent location, not a supply base, knockout would not be crippling blow.
  • Laird’s case: not opp[osed] to COSVN—but very upset re NSDM 3 saying WSAG responsible for implementation—holds Sec Def must have that responsibility—under Constitution. Did try to say Abrams opposed to COSVN—but waffled several times as K answered back with other info.
  • —Became clear on questioning by P that Rogers’ real problem was his testimony this afternoon on the Hill. He doesn’t want to have to say we’re sending in US troops to Cambodia—but he can’t say otherwise w[ith] NSDM already out w/o lying, which he won’t do. (P agreed.) Rogers used various agruments—mainly along line of prob[lem] of taking massive US casualties.
  • K mainly laid low—did inject factual pts re Abrams’ views to correct Laird—each time w[ith] Laird’s subsequent agreement.
  • —P raised q[uestion] of alternatives. Made it clear that Parrot’s Beak not adequate action alone—must combine with another operation. Willing to consider another area if all agree—incl[uding] Abrams—that COSVN is undesirable. Problem of alternatives is that all would also require US troops & objective would be much less than COSVN—so pay the same price but get less (actually pay somewhat less because lower casualties).
  • —R and L reiterated their various arguments several times. R saying if decision made he’ll of course support it—but feels all these decisions are made w/o adequate consultation & he doesn’t like it.

After meeting—P told K to suspend order for 24 hours—cable Abrams & get his true views and recs [recommendations]—convene mtg of group tonite to review again.4 Said he’s committed to two operations, will consider an alternative to COSVNif Abrams recommends.

P made clear he understood basis of both R & L positions in mtg. R playing against move in reaction to Sen[ate], estab[lishement] press, etc. L trying to figure P’s position & be with it w/o his prerogatives cut. K pushing too hard to hold control.

K said afterwards Helms warned him he’d have to run the gov’t if we did this because R wld [would] not back it. K takes whole deal as test of P’s authority—and I think would go ahead even if plan is wrong—just to prove P can’t be challenged. P recognizes maybe need another look—& that if we change plan—but still do two—his authority is maintained but we show we’re willing to listen.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, Staff Members Office Files, E.R. Haldeman, Haldeman Notes, April–June 1970. No classification marking. Kissinger recounts this meeting in White House Years, pp. 500–501 and Nixon in RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon , p. 450. These notes are reprinted in slightly less cryptic form in H.R. Haldeman, The Haldeman Diaries, pp. 155–156, where 11 to 11:53 a.m. is given as the time. The President’s Daily Diary gives the time of the meeting as 10:45 to 11:49 a.m. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files)
  2. See Document 259.
  3. Document 260.
  4. The meeting was held on the morning of April 28; see Document 267.