194. Note From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


Here is yet another and more detailed report on COSVN instructions to its cadres about cease-fire and political settlement. CIA has confirmed that this is a totally reliable source and I think it is essential that we look carefully at what is contained in the attached message. It is, of course, tailored for local cadres and packaged in a way which is more worrisome than its underlying reality.

The key points are as follows:

Seize as much land as possible preliminary to a cease-fire in place or a readjustment. In the latter case, greater leverage is provided.
Abandonment of a demand for war indemnification.
Elimination of demands for withdrawal of U.S. forces and bases within a fixed period.
Abandonment of the demand that Thieu be removed and the Saigon Regime overthrown. In lieu thereof, cadres are urged to improve the political [Page 681] base through which Thieu can be overthrown following the cease-fire and political settlement.
In terms of tactics, the enemy will lay low until just before the cease-fire is to be accepted, at which time they will attempt to overrun as much territory as possible.
Cadres are being postured in a way that makes it look as though it would be Nixon who was backing down before his election when we know the opposite is the case. On the other hand, this lays great credence to LBJ’s advice of yesterday which I believe came from a larger base of knowledge than his isolated Ranch posture would suggest.2

I think we must be very, very wary of the strong possibility that Hanoi has been in close touch with McGovern or McGovern elements, that a deal has been worked out through which the Democratic Party will be able to achieve credit for the settlement and that we will be standing with egg on our face in November because both the Democrats and Hanoi and their friends throughout the media will portray the breakthrough as coming directly from McGovern’s pressure on the Administration. It is inconceivable to me that President Johnson would have spent from 11:00 am yesterday morning until 6:30 pm last night in an emotional way talking to me about the importance of this issue.

This is purely speculative at this point in time but I very much suspect that this is the game plan and that it is, in fact, designed to strengthen, not weaken McGovern. We cannot, and must not, lose sight of the realities which are that Hanoi has been forced into this strategy as a result of the strong action taken with the mining and the bombing and also as a result of the disastrous losses in the south. I urge you to think the implications of this thing through very carefully. The President’s press conference tomorrow evening could be critical in preempting what the Democrats may hope to turn very much in their favor.3 I have never for a moment doubted the total and complete collaboration between Hanoi and the McGovern camp and especially those individuals around McGovern. If we proceed under any other assumptions, we are totally naive.

Al Haig 4
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 993, Alexander M. Haig Chronological Files, Haig Chron, June 13–30, 1972. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Kissinger initialed the note. Attached but not printed is a CIA Information Cable, June 28, TDCS–314/0510–72, entitled “Major COSVN Military and Political Policy Decisions Concerning the War in Vietnam and an Eventual Ceasefire.”
  2. At Nixon’s direction, Haig visited former President Johnson on June 27 at his Texas ranch to brief him on the SALT talks. During their conversation, according to Haig: “President Johnson told me that he considered a McGovern Presidency a disaster. He stated that as a life time Democrat, he could not vote Republican but he would not vote Democratic either.” Later in the conversation, “President Johnson went to some length in expressing his concern for the tactics and character of the McGovern camp. He noted that McGovern supporters had totally devastated the Democratic party machine in Texas by employing the most irresponsible and revolutionary campaign tactics.” (Ibid., Box 998, Alexander M. Haig Chronological Files, Haig Memcons, January–December 1972 [2 of 3])
  3. The transcript is in Public Papers: Nixon, 1972, pp. 705–718.
  4. Haig initialed “AH” above his typed signature.