122. Backchannel Message From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to the Ambassador to South Vietnam (Bunker)1

WHS 2063. Deliver as soon as possible. The President is nearing the end of his patience with General Abrams on the issue of air action against North Vietnam. It must be clear to him that we are playing the most complex game with the Soviets involving matters which extend far beyond the battle in Vietnam as crucial as it is. Furthermore, without any requests from General Abrams and against massive bureaucratic opposition, the President since March 30 has ordered deployed 56 more B–52’s, 3 more aircraft carriers, and 129 land-based F–4’s to be available during this period. In addition, 72 more F–4’s have been directed to deploy and will begin arriving shortly.

The fact that General Abrams would dispatch an on-the-record cable to the effect that the diversion of some of these assets for a 48-hour effort in the North jeopardizes our security2 is increasingly difficult to comprehend. As you know, General Haig was sent to Saigon for the [Page 434] specific purpose of making these broader political considerations clear to General Abrams.

There is some suspicion here that confusing signals from sources in Washington may be contributing to the problem. General Abrams must understand that henceforth the President’s thinking on questions of this import will come to him only through you and that any contrary signals, no matter what the source, are inaccuate.

Of course, if there is in fact an overriding security problem, the President expects and must have General Abrams’ judgments and in such instances he would expect that you will be the channel for these views which will then be provided to the President in a clear and unfiltered way.

Please see General Abrams at the first practical moment and discuss this problem with him in the frankest terms. In the interim, the President has, in the light of General Abrams’ official recommendation, deferred action on the 48-hour Hanoi/Haiphong strikes.

Warm regards.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 44, Geopolitical File, Vietnam, Cables, 3 Apr–15 Jun 1972. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only.
  2. Document 118.