175. Conversation Among President Nixon, the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), and the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig)1

Kissinger: First of all, let me give you my assessment of how these negotiations went. They came back on November—they came here on November 20th determined to settle. When Le Duc Tho arrived at the airport, he said, “It would not be understood if we had a second meeting—if a second meeting was requested.” We gave them 69 changes, of which many of them were crap, just to go through the motions of supporting Saigon.2 Instead of blowing their top, they went through in a very businesslike fashion. They accepted twelve of them; we were down to four.

Nixon: Wait a minute. You’re talking about what day?

Kissinger: The first day, November 20th.

Nixon: Oh. That was the time after the election.

Kissinger: Between November 20th and November 24th—

Nixon: That’s when you got the twelve concessions.

Kissinger: That’s when we got the first concession—the twelve concessions and, literally, we were within one day of settlement, then. We said, “If we can get two out of three of the other four that were outstanding—”3

Nixon: Um-hmm.

Kissinger: “—we’ll settle.” We would have settled for one out of three.

Nixon: Sure.

Kissinger: It was easy to do.

Nixon: Then?

[Page 636]

Kissinger: At the end of the third day, he got a message, read it at the table, blanched, immediately asked for a recess, and it’s never been the same since. Immediately then, the next day, he introduced new demands of his own, which he had not done before. And, from then on, he started dragging things.4 Now—

Nixon: Huh? What was the message? What’s your analysis?

Kissinger: My analysis of the message is that they probably got a read-out of what you said to Duc,5 and what I said to their local Ambassador,6 which was to say—

Nixon: No, I hadn’t seen Duc by that time.

Kissinger: No, you—oh, no—

Nixon: [unclear]—

Kissinger: —that’s what we said to him. Or at any rate, they—

Nixon: Well, we had said it, though. We said we’d need to play a hard line with them—

Kissinger: Then they got a read-out of what I said to their Ambassador, which was exactly what I—

Nixon: That was probably it. That was it. I think they’re probably infiltrated over there in Paris. That’s what I think.

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: [unclear]—

Kissinger: That’s even more—

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: —likely than what you said—

Nixon: That’s it. No, not Duc. I don’t think Duc would do it, but—

Kissinger: Well, Duc wouldn’t do it himself—

Nixon: But, you see, they got a read-out. I think the Paris thing leaks like a sieve. Their rooms are—and those assholes don’t know that their rooms are bugged by the Communists, and the Communists passed it back. And, so?

Kissinger: Whatever the reason is, they then decided that—

Nixon: That’s when you showed them, that’s when you saw it. That was the turn of events.

[Page 637]

Kissinger: Then, there was a turn of events. Then, he introduced two demands, which he knew we couldn’t meet.7 One, that the political prisoners ought to be released.

Nixon: Hmm.

Kissinger: And, second, that we should pull out our civilian personnel serving in the technical branches there, which would have the practical consequence of grounding the Air Force—

Nixon: Yes, of course—

Kissinger: —and—and grounding the radar, and, in effect, destroying the ARVN. That’s when I asked for a recess.

Nixon: Um-hmm.

Kissinger: Because I knew—

Nixon: To come home?

Kissinger: To come home. This was the first session. Still, we were quite optimistic. We thought that if we kept pushing, we could finish it that week, but we had no assurance that we could get Thieu along, so we wanted you—

Nixon: Duc—

Kissinger: —to talk to Duc.

Nixon: That’s when you [unclear]—

Kissinger: Now, in addition to whatever they may have picked up of what we said to the South Vietnamese, the South Vietnamese behavior was so incredible that that gave them an incentive, because the longer these negotiations went on, the better off they were. The greater the tension between Saigon and us—

Nixon: Um-hmm.

Kissinger: —the greater possibility that we would flush Thieu down the drain.

Nixon: I see.

Kissinger: Without it—without it. And, the third factor was that every day that I was there on the first trip, Saigon Radio put out the content of the negotiations, which we had given them, and were—was keeping a scorecard on the concessions, so that Hanoi must have decided that any concession they made to us would be played in Saigon as a victory for them. So, for all these three factors—

Nixon: Yeah?

Kissinger: —they put a quietus on the negotiations. Now, when we came back, it was a roller coaster. Up and down, the whole time.

Nixon: Hmm.

[Page 638]

Kissinger: And, since we thought it should be settled quickly, and since all the evidence up to then was still consistent with settling quickly, it was not easy to tell, at first, what they were up to. For example, on Monday morning, Al and I saw him alone.8 He gave us—

Nixon: This was the first day?

Kissinger: The first day.

Nixon: Yeah, the—but before we get that in, we must also throw into the equation the fact that those two—well, there were more than that—the two sessions I had. You had three or four with Duc9 when he was here.

Kissinger: That’s right, they—

Nixon: It obviously was reported back, because we put that to ’em, and it was put in such unequivocal terms that that undoubtedly got back to ’em.

Kissinger: That got back to them, but that could have worked either way, Mr. President, because they could have concluded from that: “Let’s settle fast, and then the Americans will put the heat on him.”

Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: In the first session—

Nixon: If they wanted to settle?

Kissinger: In the first session, he always asked me what my schedule was for getting the thing done. When you would go on television? When I would come—

Nixon: Yeah, I know—

Kissinger: —to Hanoi? When the bombing of the North would stop? But the bombing of the North has dropped off so much now because of these idiots in Defense, that we’ve practically given it to them for nothing. We had 28 tacair sorties today—yesterday. That’s not to say that they won’t pay a price—

Nixon: Well, what’d they say in Paris? They say it’s weather holding that off? [unclear] Bullshit.

Kissinger: So, uh—

Nixon: Go ahead.

Kissinger: So that was the situation on—at the first session—

Nixon: At beginning of the sessions, right?

Kissinger: At the beginning of the sessions, they wanted to know the schedule. When do we go to Hanoi? When is the speech? When is [Page 639] the cease-fire? And they wanted to know all of this because, of course, they’re planning their military actions around it. Last week, Monday morning, he gave us a very conciliatory talk.

Nixon: Um-hmm.

Kissinger: And, frankly, to show you how naive or wrong we were, we thought the only question was with it—there were only four issues left at that point.

Nixon: I know. You remember, you said before you left, you have two days.

Kissinger: Yeah. Well, we thought it would be done Monday afternoon. We get in there Monday afternoon, he withdraws every concession he’s made two weeks previously and says there’re only two choices: to sign the October agreement, or to—

Nixon: Why’d he do that privately, not publicly? Do you think—?

Kissinger: Well, incidentally—

Nixon: You don’t think he get new instructions—

Kissinger: No.

Nixon: —to be more [unclear]—?

Kissinger: No, no. No, no. He did it privately to establish the fact that he wanted peace. Then he did it in the afternoon—

Nixon: Well, that’s all right. Now, why is he trying to establish the fact that he wants peace? So that we don’t go wild? Is that it—?

Kissinger: That’s right. That’s right. They have two problems. They are at the ragged edge, themselves. They are obviously terrified of what we will do.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: On the other hand, they also feel they can play us. And so, their problem was how to get through the week.

Nixon: Um-hmm.

Kissinger: Now, they start with this very sharp approach. In the afternoon, he withdraws every concession.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: And says if we want them, we have to give them counter-concessions. So then, I cancelled the Tuesday10 meeting in order to be able to work on the Chinese and Russians, and because we cannot go back to the October draft, Mr. President, for a number of reasons. If we go back to the October draft, we’ll be overthrowing Thieu. We’ve got to get some changes. Secondly, it has now become—their bad faith has now become so self—so evident—

[Page 640]

Nixon: Hmm?

Kissinger: —that many things we could have accepted in October—

Nixon: Hmm?

Kissinger: —we cannot, now, accept without their being written down. Thirdly, there are many things we could have accepted on a quick schedule for which there’s no excuse, whatever, to accept on a slow schedule, like putting international machinery in place. Now—then, Wednesday, we met, and he was conciliatory again, and he gave us back five of those ten changes we made. Thursday was bad again. Friday, he gave us the one real concession he made of—when I talk like this, that’s a four-hour session, every day.

Nixon: Um-hmm.

Kissinger: Friday, he gave us administrative structure. That was the one big concession he made.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: Uh—

Nixon: Then he withdrew it Monday?

Kissinger: No, administrative structure was never withdrawn, but civilian personnel, he found two things which he knew—

Nixon: Um-hmm.

Kissinger: —we couldn’t take. One, is the release of political detainees. The other is the withdrawal of civilian personnel. So, every day, they came up in one form or another. And quite diabolically, one day, he said—remember when Al left that Saturday?11

Nixon: Um-hmm.

Kissinger: He said, “All right, we’ll take them out of the agreement.” So Monday, he reintroduces them as an understanding, which doesn’t do us any good; we still have to withdraw them. We don’t give a damn whether they’re in the agreement or not; we want them there. Now, they were never in the agreement. We had a full discussion on the subject. It was settled in October. That concession, alone, if we pull out our civilian personnel—

Nixon: It destroys [unclear].

Kissinger: It’s bigger than all the concessions put together he’s made to us. So, on Saturday, when Al left, we were down to one issue—the DMZ—or so it seemed. We made another schedule. I said, “I’m sending Al back; he’s then going to go with the Vice President—”

Nixon: [unclear]—

[Page 641]

Kissinger: So, the son-of-a-bitch knew the Vice President was ready to leave. So he puts on a fainting spell; says he’s getting sick,12 he’s just—

Nixon: Don’t you think that was a fainting spell, though?

Kissinger: Oh, that was a fake—

Nixon: An act?

Kissinger: Oh, he was—90 percent acting. He’s got a headache. He’s got to—he can’t meet on Sunday. If they wanted to settle, Mr. President, they would have settled Saturday night, if it had taken ’til four in the morning.

Nixon: That’s why you kept at it, which you were right to do. You see—

Kissinger: [unclear]—

Nixon: —you—you’re—you may wonder whether you shouldn’t have broken it off the first day, but I think—I think, and I don’t know whether Al agrees or not; I never asked—but I think it was just well to just to continue to press, and press, and press, and press. If there’s one thing for sure for everybody here, they want the goddamn thing over for a variety of reasons, and many for the wrong reasons, and some for the right reasons. Many think it is over. But, at least, we’ve got to be—we’ve got to play our string out so that we make the record. Right, Al?

Haig: That’s right.

Nixon: And that was what you did—

Kissinger: We—we couldn’t break off the first day.

Nixon: If you hadn’t, we—well, Christ, you knew. You didn’t. You stayed there ten days.

Kissinger: We had to prove what they were up to, Mr. President. We had to go the extra mile.

Nixon: And to prove it, also, to your colleagues; your loyalists, like Mr. Sullivan, Mr. [unclear], those people, too.

Kissinger: Well—

Nixon: Did they finally get [unclear]—

Kissinger: Oh, Sullivan said he doesn’t understand how I stood it, and—

Nixon: Is that right?

Kissinger: But you had no idea, when I—

Nixon: You left him over there [unclear], I see?

[Page 642]

Kissinger: Well, to work on the protocol;13 I’ll get into that in a minute. So then, on Saturday, we had it down to one issue. It—all we wanted on that issue is that they give us back something they had agreed to three weeks ago. We didn’t introduce a new demand. The issue—Al has explained to you the DMZ issue.

Nixon: Oh, sure.

Kissinger: The way they phrase it, we would not just leave their troops there, we would abolish the dividing line between North and South Vietnam, after which they would have an unlimited right of intervention. They would be the only legitimate government in Vietnam, while there were severe restrictions on the South Vietnamese. That—then, we might just as well overthrow Thieu. I mean, we’ve got to keep Thieu—not sovereignty, Reston has it completely wrong. Sovereignty’s not the issue, because he can have sovereignty with a cease-fire.14

Nixon: Reston, I think, he has it wrong. He has it wrong in one sense and right in another sense. That’s really that Thieu is salvageable. To us, it isn’t—that isn’t what worries us. Not at all. But go ahead.

Kissinger: To us, Mr. President, it seems to me, to sign an agreement which leaves whatever number they’ve got there—let’s say 150,000, which we think, plus the unlimited right of movement across the border, and, indeed, not just the right to movement across the border, but abolishing the border—that I think is close to a sell-out. It’s a demand they never made of us. They had agreed to the other proposition three weeks ago, so it’s not unthinkable to them. So, what did they do? On Sunday, we had experts meetings to conform the texts. It’s a purely technical thing; third-level people on my staff, third-level people on theirs. In the guise of language changes, they immediately introduced four substantive issues to make goddamn sure we couldn’t settle. For example, all week long, we had fought on the issue. They had agreed that the PRG shouldn’t be mentioned in the text. On Friday, we made the concession that it could be mentioned in the preamble. And we had then thought that the—that Saigon would pull off the preamble and sign a document without the preamble. And they agreed to that. So on Sunday, in the language meeting, they put the PRG into the—into three places in the text. I don’t want to bore you with all these details—

Nixon: It’s important I get the feel on all this—

Kissinger: It’s just to give you the feel—

[Page 643]

Nixon: I’ve got the feel. I’ve got the feel. I just want to, so I can see what they’re doing.

Kissinger: That—that they immediately introduce something, which guarantees that there could be no settlement on Monday.15

Nixon: [unclear]

Kissinger: On Monday, they told me they had no instructions.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: But they—

Nixon: May I ask one question? May I ask one question that troubles me here? As you know, Kennedy, at your instruction, made a call to Dobrynin.16

Kissinger: Yeah—

Nixon: Remember? And we—and which I thought was a good thing to do. And he put it out there, and Dobrynin said he’d convey the message. I got on the phone, briefly, with the same thing, just saying—

Kissinger: I thought it was excellent. Al told me.

Nixon: —there’s one issue, but the whole point is, excellent or not, do we have the Russians screwing us here, too?

Kissinger: No.

Nixon: You don’t think so?

Kissinger: No, because Al gave me a report which—

Nixon: Yeah, but you were there when I talked to him, and [unclear]—

Kissinger: No, but Al gave me a report of something Dobrynin told him of where the negotiations stood, which they had been told by Hanoi, which is so—it’s partly true, and partly so distorted, that Hanoi is lying to them the way Saigon is lying to us.

Nixon: Do you think Dobrynin is—not Dobrynin, but the Soviet is trying to move them—?

Kissinger: Yeah, definitely.

Nixon: Do you think so, Al?

Haig: There’s something to that, Mr. President.

Kissinger: Because they know you. Brezhnev wants to come here. There’s nothing in it for them. If they wanted to screw you, they’d do it in the Middle East. There’s nothing in it for the Russians—

Nixon: All right. All right, I get it. I was troubled by whether we had, you know, put a—played a—made a play there which would hurt [Page 644] us where we have a much bigger game, and I just hate to waste it on these assholes. But you did what you could.

Kissinger: No, what neither—

Nixon: You saw the Chinese, too?

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: Was that worthwhile?

Kissinger: No—well, I don’t know. The Chinese never tell us.

Nixon: All right. Come on. Come [unclear]—

Kissinger: So, Monday—

Nixon: [unclear]—

Kissinger: So, Monday they come in, just to make sure we don’t settle, they come in with a signing—new signing proposals. So, I figure out a way by which we can accept it, and tentatively accepted it. The next day, he comes in with a DMZ proposal, which is, however, exactly what they gave us the week before—just moving the sentence one place further—and withdraw the signing proposal they had made the day before, and put it into a form that we can’t accept, claiming that he had been overruled in Hanoi. In other words, his communication for that worked very fast. Then, again, in the form of going through the language of the document, they introduce four other issues. Then—now, this is December 12th—six weeks after I told them we want to bring the protocols into being simultaneously with the agreement, five weeks after they say they want to sign the agreement, they, for the first time, produced their protocol for the international commission and for the other commission, giving us just one night to study it. Now, when you see those protocols, they’re an insult to our intelligence.

Nixon: Yeah. I know.

Kissinger: They have a—they have 250 members in the international commission. They have—each team has liaison offices assigned to it as the same number as the team from the Party. All their communications, all their transportation, comes from the Party. In other words, the Communists supply all the communications and transportation in their area, they have no right to move out of their building unless the Communists agree to it. We’ll never get anyone to serve on it. And, so, the international commission is a total joke, and everything is insulting. They had agreed. All week long, they told us there’s a great concession, that there would be a team in the DMZ. So where do they put the DMZ team? On the Cua Viet River. Did you know that?

Haig: [laughs]

Kissinger: [laughing] They put the DMZ team on the Cua Viet River, which is at Quang Tri. And then, they have a proposal for a Two-Party Commission, in which they give the Communist member—the international member can’t move a—can’t go to the bathroom without [Page 645] Communist permission. Then, there’s a Two-Party Commission, in which the Communist member can run freely around the country, make any investigation he wants, it’s established in every district capital. In other words, the political—the Two-Party Commission is a way for them to spread the VC all over the country. And then, in the international commission, they introduce this Council of National Reconciliation as one of the parties, as if it were a government.

[Omitted here is discussion among Nixon, Haldeman, Butterfield, and Bull about the President’s schedule.]

Kissinger: Less was settled on Tuesday, so, then the only thing we accomplished Tuesday17 was to go over the language of the agreement. We had it down to two—

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: There were only two unresolved issues, one of them a total, cheap, miserable trick on their part, again. They had introduced the phrase that, “The National Council will direct the other party.” We refused to accept “direct,” so they said, “supervise.” We refused to accept “supervise,” and we finally bargained them down to the word, “promote,” which they had accepted. They accepted the English word “promote,” but they kept the Vietnamese word “supervise.” So, in the text that’s going to be circulating in Vietnam [unclear]. All I’m trying to tell you, Mr. President, is here then I was—

Nixon: You were willing to stay there?

Kissinger: So then I was there on the last day. We had it down to two issues on the text, and one issue of substance. I said, “Let the experts get together and just compare texts once more to make sure we got it right.” So they introduced 17 changes in the form of linguistics, by changing the obligations on Cambodia and Laos, by taking out a word on replacements, what weapons we can replace. We had said, “destroyed, worn out, damaged or used up.” They take out the word “destroyed.” I said, “Listen, Mr. Le Duc Tho, why do you take out ‘destroyed?’” He said, “Because, if a thing is damaged, you can’t destroy it without damaging it, so it’s an unnecessary word.” So here we go into an hour’s debate on the philosophical problem of whether you—

Nixon: [unclear]—

Kissinger: Uh—

Nixon: How many [unclear].

Kissinger: But, you know goddamn well. Now, all of this we’ve already communicated to Saigon. If we take it out—if this were Dobrynin [Page 646] —if this were Gromyko in the last hour of the SALT settlement, I’d run this through and wouldn’t quibble. But, you know what their strategy is. If we accept their DMZ language, which would be a disaster, they’ve got to sign it. If we accept their signing language, they’ve got the 17 language changes. If we accept every one of these 17 language changes, which would destroy again what they granted us three weeks ago on Cambodia and Laos, they’ve got the protocols. And they are now saying all of these things, and if we accept the protocols, which we—I mean, if we did that, we might just as well overthrow Thieu and leave—then they’ve got the understandings. On the other hand, he played a very clever game. He’s—first of all, their book must say that “Kissinger’s a man of great vanity, so keep buttering him up.” So, they kept saying to me, “You and I are the only men who understand this war, so you go back to your President, and I’ll go back to my Politburo.” Here he was sitting with ten little guys all the time, and he kept saying, “You know, I’m trying to settle. I make all these concessions to you, and they overrule me in Hanoi,” he says. Now, when a Politburo member tells you he’s been overruled in front of ten clerks—

Nixon: That’s crazy.

Kissinger: —you know it isn’t true. So, what they’ve done is quite diabolical. They’ve got the issue in a stage where, with one phone call to us, they can settle it in an hour. But they’re always going to keep it just out of reach, and—

Nixon: Henry, tell me this—

Kissinger: Now, Laird thinks we can just yield. We can’t yield. They won’t let us yield—

Nixon: Did you talk to—did you get Laird this morning?

Kissinger: Well, Laird has sent you a memo.18

Nixon: Well, wait a minute. How much does Laird know?

Haig: He knows that things are going bad, that we’re considering other possibilities for reaction—

Nixon: What is he suggesting? To yield?

Haig: Yeah. Oh, he called. I told you yesterday. He called me the night before and said, “We can’t—we can’t take military action. I’m going to send a memo over.” Well, the memo got here yesterday morning and it just says we’ve got to settle.

Nixon: So what’s new?

Kissinger: Any terms [unclear].

Nixon: What’s new with him?


[Page 647]

Nixon: Have we ever gotten anything else with him?

Kissinger: Oh, no. No, no—

Nixon: November 3d, Cambodia, May 8th.19

Kissinger: Mr. President, if—

Nixon: Rogers has stood firm, though, on this, hasn’t he?

Kissinger: He hasn’t stood at all as far as I know.

Nixon: Well, no, no, but he’s never indicated any moving—movement away. Does Sullivan?

Kissinger: No, Sullivan is completely—

Nixon: Well, I know. I think he would if there were—you haven’t heard from Rogers? Now, you’ve briefed him a couple times. How’s he see it? What has he said? I want to know.

Haig: He’s—

Nixon: This depends on whether we have a meeting or not—

Haig: [unclear]—

Nixon: Huh?

Haig: He’s been absolutely unquestioning on it—

Kissinger: No—

Haig: —and what we can do.

Kissinger: Let me—let me put Sullivan’s view fairly. In the text of the agreement, Sullivan would make concessions I would not make. But Sullivan has now accepted the fact—

Nixon: That there’s—

Kissinger: —that no matter what concessions we make in the text, they’re not gonna settle. Now, there are a number of possibilities. It is—there’s a 10 percent chance that Tho is telling the truth that he’s going back to Hanoi—

Nixon: No.

Kissinger: I don’t believe it. I just—

Nixon: Yeah—

Kissinger: —[unclear]—

Nixon: —there’s a 10 percent chance. Go ahead—

[Page 648]

Kissinger: In fairness, I have to say there’s a second possibility that they now want to see, for a little longer, how that Saigon-Washington split works.

Nixon: Right. Third?

Kissinger: There’s the predominant possibility that there isn’t enough pressure on them to make them settle. Now, the reason I wanted to—I—I recommended and am responsible for the accelerated schedule before November 7th, is that November 7th gave them a deadline from which they could not—that which they could not evade.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: And, therefore, they had to make rapid movements. I—that—what we are seeing now is their normal negotiating habit. They’re shits, if I can use a—I mean, they are tawdry, miserable, filthy people. They make the Russians looks good.

Nixon: And the Russians make the Chinese look good, I know.

Kissinger: And the Russians make the Chinese look good. I mean, it isn’t just this crap I’m giving you; it is they never, never do anything that isn’t tawdry. Now, November 7th scared the pants off them. Now, I remember talking to Al about it, and I take full responsibility; he was in favor of a slower schedule—

Nixon: He went along with it. He went along with no problem—

Kissinger: No, I get a lot of credit, exorbitant credit, when things go well. I have to take the blame when things do not—

Nixon: Who remembers India-Pakistan—?20

Kissinger: Well, no. There I was right. India-Pakistan I was right. This one I wasn’t necessarily right on.

Nixon: Who knows? Who knows!

Kissinger: India-Pakistan didn’t bother me. On that one, I was right. And that one paid off in China. India-Pakistan was one—

Nixon: What I meant is, at the time—what I’m talking about is are we going to have enough time? All these assholes in the press said we were wrong. Now, at the present time, the press will say, “We’re quite aware we’re very, very close to peace, and d-d-d-d-d.” They were wrong, and so when it turns the other way, they’re going to say, “Peace has escaped d-d-d-d-d,” and they’re going to be wrong again. And it isn’t going to make a goddamn bit of difference. My point is, you’ve got to remember who the enemy are. The enemy has never changed. The election didn’t change it. The only friends we’ve got, Henry, are a few people of rather moderate education out in this country, and thank [Page 649] God, they’re about 61 percent of the people, who support us. The left-wingers, most of your friends, and most—and many of mine—

Kissinger: Some friends of mine—

Nixon: —are against us.

Kissinger: I’m using the left-wingers, Mr. President—

Nixon: Yeah. They’re all through with us, though—

Kissinger: I—

Nixon: —and we’re through with them.

Kissinger: I have—

Nixon: They don’t even know. They don’t know what’s going to hit them, we believe.

Kissinger: I have no illusions about the left-wingers. Those sons-of-bitches are [unclear]—

Nixon: Well, they’re so tawdry, right? Now, let’s come down to where we’ve got to go.

Kissinger: So—but, the difference—

Nixon: I—understand, Henry—you know, I told it—as Al over here will tell you—as I told you last night. I say, “What difference does it make? It’s done.” You know, what—whether it was before, we should have done it during the election, and so forth and so on. Looking back, we probably should have let it wait ’til the election, and the day after the election: Whack! You know? And said—or [unclear], rather than whack, said, “You’ve got 48 hours, kiddies. Either settle, or get awful hurt.” That’s probably what we should have done, but we didn’t.

Kissinger: That’s probably true.

Nixon: That’s probably—I mean, from the standpoint of the election, we would probably have done even a little bit better than we did. [laughs] [unclear] It didn’t make a difference; we did very well. But nevertheless, nevertheless, there it is. It’s an interesting thing. You know, you’ve got two interesting analyses of the elections. You’ve got the Lou Harris analysis, who—which thinks that we were quite helped by the idea that we were sort of for peace and progress, and all that sort of thing. You’ve got the Dick [unclear] analysis, which I think is much closer to the truth—that says, on the other hand, it says [unclear]. He says all these things. He says, “Oh, yes.” He says, “It helped the President’s image, and the rest. When—but you came right down to the issues, what really won it, was it was the comparison between a sell-out, a repulsive, peace-at-any-price radical against a sound man.” They said that was what it was really about. You see, that’s why it didn’t make any difference whether you settled or not. But the point is, who was to know, then? Now, though, it’s over. Now, we’ve got to look to the future.

[Page 650]

Kissinger: What we had to balance, then—

Nixon: And, what the hell, how are we going to give them another deadline? We—that’s our problem.

Kissinger: What we had to balance, then, was to weigh the advantage of an unchangeable deadline against the danger of an endlessly protracted negotiation while our assets were there.

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: And we lost the gamble. That’s what it comes down to. We lost the gamble 80 percent because of Thieu.

Nixon: Thieu, ah! That’s right.

Kissinger: Now, but all of the—

Nixon: If Thieu—if Thieu had gone along, in the first instance, then we could have made the deal quickly that we could have lived with. That was the real problem. That we know.

Kissinger: Because if that—

Nixon: But that we can’t say—

Kissinger: No.

Nixon: —due to the fact that we know that Thieu’s survival is what we’re fighting for. Not his, but we know there ain’t nobody else to keep the goddamn place—

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: —together at the moment. Now, we’re in a real box on that. We all know that. But, you see, so therefore, that’s what I mean, Henry. You were basing your whole assumption—we were basing our assumption—on the fact that Thieu would. You remember, when you went to Saigon, you were amazed when you went in and said, “Thieu [unclear]. There is no coalition government. You have veto power.” And the son-of-a-bitch says, “No I don’t want anything other than—we’ve got to have total victory.”

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: That was, that was, that was the thing.

Kissinger: Even there, the bastard misled us. If, on the first day, he had told us he couldn’t accept it, we could have still tripped our relations with Hanoi, and avoided some of the dangers. But he led us on for three days, said he might accept it, and only on the last afternoon of the last day towards—but that’s water over the dam.21 I agree—

Nixon: Now, where do we go?

Kissinger: Well, we are now in this position: as of today, we are [Page 651] caught between Hanoi and Saigon, both of them facing us down in a position of total impotence, in which Hanoi is just stringing us along, and Saigon is just ignoring us. Hanoi—I do not see why Hanoi would want to settle three weeks from now when they didn’t settle this week. I do not see what additional factors are going to operate. I’m making a cold-blooded analysis.

Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: I see no additional factor, if nothing changes—

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: —that will make Hanoi more receptive early in January.

Nixon: [unclear]

Kissinger: I see no additional factor that will make Saigon more conciliatory. On—in—on the contrary, Saigon, in the process of trying to sabotage the settlement, is going to float so many proposals of its own that it knocks out the few props we’ve got left. That Christmas truce proposal of Thieu22 is a disaster, because it removes the few military pressures that we have got left. Therefore, I have come to the reluctant conclusion that we’ve got to put it to them in Hanoi, painful as it is. But, we cannot do it anymore from the old platform. We have to do it, now, from the platform of—what we have to do is this, Mr. President, if—my—I’ve thought about it very hard, now. I think I ought to give a low-key briefing tomorrow of just where the negotiations stand.

Nixon: You think you should?

Kissinger: Well, Al thinks Ziegler should, but I don’t see how anyone else—I went out there and said they were going well. If I hide, now, it is not going—

Nixon: You’re not hiding. Let’s think. All right, let’s think about it. Somebody could give a low-key briefing, so let’s start [unclear]—

Kissinger: I don’t think anyone else can do it except I.

Nixon: All right, all right, let’s talk [unclear]—

Kissinger: I was the guy who said, “Peace is at hand—”23

Nixon: —let’s talk about that later. Let’s talk about—somebody should give a low-key briefing. What should the briefing be?

Kissinger: The briefing should be is where were we at the end of October, and why did we think peace was imminent? What has happened in the interval, and what is, now, in prospect? We can explain, very convincingly, that with goodwill, peace was easily achievable. But every time we turned over a rock, we found a worm underneath. That, if they wanted a cease-fire, they should have had an international machinery [Page 652] in place. They didn’t do it. That, while they were talking cease-fire to us, we have reams of intelligence reports that ordered them to go into massive action on the first—

Nixon: [unclear]

Kissinger: —day of the cease-fire—

Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: —and to go on for—

Nixon: They were going to violate it—?

Kissinger: —three days after. They translated the document in a way that was totally misleading as to the nature of—

Nixon: Whether it was a government or a coalition [unclear]—

Kissinger: Or whether it had to “direct,” or whether it had to “promote.” That, the simplest thing—

Nixon: I mean, the way—let me say, if we’re going to talk about this—Al, take these words down—the way that it should be done. I mean, I’d have all this so it’s done by either Ziegler or [unclear] all these things about the proposed direction. But, the point is, you should say that we had evidence, first, massive intelligence evidence that they were intending to violate the cease-fire and all the understandings. Second, they insisted on translating the document, and insisted on a change in the document, which would have made it a coalition government, or a Communist—a Communist-coalition government over the people of South Vietnam, something we had insisted we would never agree upon, rather than a Commission of Reconciliation, which had for its purpose [unclear]. In other words, be sure that the violation, the Communist government, that that kind of thing gets into the lead. Go ahead.

Kissinger: That then—

Nixon: Think of things we could say then.

Kissinger: That then, even though there was extensive international machinery provided in the agreement, they claimed—

Nixon: They sabotaged the international machinery by making it totally meaningless, so that nobody would even serve.

Kissinger: But, first, they wouldn’t even show it to us ’til December 12th.

Nixon: That’s right. In view of the—but even that, just say that the international machinery they totally agree—disagreed to set up international machinery to supervise it all in any meaningful way.

Kissinger: Then, they told us that the demobilization provision of the agreement would take care of their troops. Every time we try to give it one concrete meaning, through a de facto understanding, through giving it a time limit, through indicating—

[Page 653]

Nixon: They were using these negotiations solely for the purpose, not of—that is not [unclear] not for the purpose of ending the war, but of continuing the war in a different form.

Kissinger: And so, we have come—

Nixon: And not of bringing peace, but of having—continuing war in this terribly difficult part of the country. War in South Vietnam; peace in North Vietnam. Well, that was their proposal: peace for North Vietnam and continuing war in South Vietnam.

Kissinger: So, we have come to the reluctant conclusion that—you have expressed it very well right now, Mr. President—that this wasn’t a peace document. This was a document for perpetual warfare, in which they create—

Nixon: Perpetual warfare in South Vietnam—

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: —and peace in North Vietnam. That’s the way to put it.

Kissinger: That’s right—

Nixon: “Peace in North Vietnam and perpetual warfare in South Vietnam, with the United States—and the United States cooperating with them in the—”

Kissinger: Now—

Nixon: “—in imposing a Communist government on the people of South Vietnam against their will.”

Kissinger: And this is why these negotiations, which could have been very rapid—

Nixon: That’s right. Now—

Kissinger: —and should have been very rapid—

Nixon: —the negotiations: on the other hand, the negotiations—we have had agreements throughout this period of time. We have reached agreement on all these issues, at varying times, from which they have first agreed and then withdrawn. This can be settled in one day—

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: —if they’re willing to settle. And we’re willing to settle in one day.

Kissinger: Exactly.

Nixon: No other meetings are needed; just an exchange of messages has been arranged.

Kissinger: Or—

Nixon: [unclear]—

Kissinger: Or another meeting is necessary. But—so this is—now, we also have to disassociate ourselves from Saigon to some extent. We have to say—

[Page 654]

Nixon: Yeah?

Kissinger: —“It isn’t—what is the difference between us and Saigon? Saigon wanted total victory. The President has always said that he would give them a reasonable chance to survive. The difference between us and Hanoi is that they will not give them a reasonable chance to survive. So, Saigon’s objections never had a chance.” I—

Nixon: And, on the other hand, I would tilt it. I would say we were ready to tilt it very strongly against Hanoi, and very lightly against Hanoi—against Saigon. I would say that North Vietnam—that as far as Saigon is concerned, they—we understandably express concern about the agreement, about the people—the people of South—but, on the other hand, Saigon had agreed, on May 8th, at the time we laid down the conditions of a cease-fire, the return our POWs, and internationally-supervised elections, that they would agree to that.24 And now, they have backed off of that proposal, and are insisting now on a total withdrawal of forces, which, of course, is not consistent—

Kissinger: But we have to—

Nixon: [unclear]—

Kissinger: We had to back off a bit from Saigon, Mr. President, if Saigon—

Nixon: And that backs off.

Kissinger: In—I agree. In Saigon’s interest, because then, it isn’t Saigon that vetoed it, but it is our judgment that the Communists are—have used another guise to impose themselves. Now, I would recommend that we leave open the possibility of this settlement, if the other side meets the very minimum conditions that we have indicated. I would then recommend that we start bombing the bejeezus out of them within 48 hours of having put the negotiating record out. And I would then recommend that after about two weeks of that, we offer withdrawal for prisoners, about the time that the Congress comes back—

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: —and say, “It is now been proved that the—the negotiation’s too complex involving all the Vietnamese parties. Let them settle their problems among each other. The South is strong enough to defend itself—”

Nixon: “So we will withdraw.” Now, let me ask a critical question. Do you have in this record a clear Q and A, for one thing, where you said, “All right, will you, if we withdraw all of our forces, and stop the bombing and the mining, will you return our prisoners—?”

[Page 655]

Kissinger: No—

Nixon: Would you say that they have? See, that’s the trouble, because that’s—

Kissinger: No, I’ll tell you, Mr. President, why I didn’t do that, because, I think that—

Nixon: Well—

Kissinger: —the one, they won’t—they don’t want that, now. They want us to [unclear]—

Nixon: Oh, I know they don’t, but it’s one point that we’re interested in hearing, either when we talk—

Kissinger: But I would—

Nixon: —about—when we talk about going at it alone, without Saigon, Henry, the only basis for our going at it alone is, at this time, the withdrawal of all of our forces, stopping the bombing and the mining, getting our POWs, and continuing to aid South Vietnam—

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: That’s the only basis.

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: And, they’ll never agree to that.

Kissinger: Well, Mr. President, they are not all that strong. I think if you are willing to go six months, they’re going to crack.

Nixon: Well, but Henry—Henry, I know if I’m willing to go six months it isn’t in the cards. Right? I’m willing to go six months, but that I cannot convince the Congress of, in my opinion. I mean, I must say that on that, I would have to respect the judgment of some other people here. We can go for—we can sure go ’til Christmas. I mean, we can go to ’til the Congress comes back.

Kissinger: It’s better—

Nixon: We want to remember that we’re going to have a period—if you’re thinking of bombing North Vietnam for six months, bombing for six months is not going to work.

Kissinger: Well then we can’t—then we’ve had it.

Nixon: Well then, we have to, then, have a look at our choices.

Kissinger: Because—because it is possible—

Nixon: Right, but bombing for what? I mean, what do we say?

Kissinger: Prisoners.

Nixon: We could do that.

Kissinger: When Congress—

Nixon: But, provided we make the record, which we haven’t made that record, have we?

[Page 656]

Kissinger: No, no, but we can easily fix that, Mr. President, by having the two weeks after the bomb—I would like to bomb for two weeks within this framework, because they might accept it by New Year’s, if they get a terrific shock, now. If then, by New Year’s, they haven’t accepted it, we could at the first formal session in Paris after New Year’s propose prisoners for withdrawal.

Nixon: Prisoners for withdrawal?

Kissinger: And—

Nixon: [unclear]—

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: [unclear] then say, “Now, Viet”—I meant, the way I would say it: “Vietnamization is now concluded.”

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: “The American role is now concluded. For a return of our prisoners of war, we will quit the bombing [unclear].” Yes, you could bomb for six months, I agree—

Kissinger: You see, my point—

Nixon: —on that basis. But you can’t bomb for six months with the idea that we’ll go back and have some sort of a settlement—

Kissinger: I think we’re too close on this one—

Nixon: I mean, in other words—your pro—you had that in one of your original proposals last week. But my point is that on this, as far as this one is concerned—

Kissinger: This one—

Nixon: —I have a feeling it’s out the window. I mean, I don’t want to—

Kissinger: No.

Nixon: —sound pessimistic. I—Al’s—Al, for the first time, is more optimistic even than you are. Al thinks they want to settle.

Kissinger: I also think they want to settle, but—

Nixon: Do you think they want to settle?

Kissinger: Mr. President, they are—

Nixon: Do you think they’re going to?

Haig: Yes, if they get a good kick in the ass.

Kissinger: They are scared out of their minds that you’ll resume bombing. They have taken shit from me that you wouldn’t believe. I—here is Le Duc Tho, the number three man in his country, and the things I have said to him, in front of his people, you would not believe.

Nixon: Like what?

Kissinger: About, you know, about his tawdry performance; about his extraordinary trickery. And then, just making fun of him. When he came up, I said, “Now we get the daily speech.”

[Page 657]

Nixon: [unclear] that’s something else.

Kissinger: And—

Nixon: [unclear]—

Kissinger: No, no. The point is, I bluster threats from you. The point I’m making is, Mr. President, the reason they were so nice to me is because their strategy is to make us believe—why do they let their experts meet? Why did he come out every day to shake hands with me, so that I couldn’t fight him off? I mean, he just walked up to the guard and stuck out his hand.

Nixon: I understand—

Kissinger: Why did they do all of this? Because they want to create the impression—

Nixon: That it’s still alive.

Kissinger: —that the peace—

Nixon: And, of course, they’re leaking it all to the press.

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: The press is playing it very heavily until today, and now the press is playing it the other way because you’ve returned, and—

Kissinger: Yeah, but he’s leaving tomorrow,25 so they’re going to play it, again, the other way tomorrow.

Nixon: Well, that he’s going home for what? Consultations—?

Kissinger: [unclear] What he’s going to say is he’s going home for consult—

Nixon: All right, where does Agnew fit into this?

Kissinger: Well—

Nixon: My own view is very mixed on that. I was—

Kissinger: Well—

Nixon: I was all for it when we had Agnew with something solid he was to go to talk about. But you—Agnew, to send that unguided missile out there, even with Haig, and to have him sit down there, and to have that clever Thieu start to say, “Well, we’ve got to have this and this,” and Agnew won’t even know what the hell hit him. That’s what I’m afraid of—

Kissinger: I’m no longer—if we go the route I’ve recommended, I’m not so much in favor of sending Agnew. I am in favor of—

Nixon: Sending somebody?

Kissinger: Of sending somebody, maybe Haig

Nixon: Yeah.

[Page 658]

Kissinger: —because—

Nixon: I think somebody has to go.

Kissinger: —we have to shut these guys up.

Nixon: That’s right. The point is, I don’t want them to think that we’ve resumed the bombing, and so forth, and that they’ve gotten their way, Henry. That’s the point—

Kissinger: You see, that’s—what we have to navigate, now, is a route in which we disassociate from them, but stay closer to them than to Hanoi; to lay the basis for your withdrawing; for your offering the withdrawal for prisoners early—

Nixon: I’d have to make the offer of withdrawal for prisoners. I feel this, if I could make that offer, before the Congress convenes—

Kissinger: You can do it the last week of December.

Nixon: I think that’s what we have to do.

Kissinger: The way I would play it—

Nixon: I don’t see any other way. I don’t see any other way we can survive this whole goddamn thing—

Kissinger: No.

Nixon: —and, in the meantime, what do we do? Retain the present complement of men there?

Kissinger: Where?

Nixon: South Vietnam. 29,000.26

Kissinger: Yes, I don’t think they make any difference.

Nixon: All right.

Haig: I don’t think they make any difference, and I think it’d be a bad sign to draw them down—

Nixon: I understand that. I just want to be sure that we know what the answer is—

Kissinger: But—but what I would do—

[unclear exchange]

Kissinger: What I would recommend, Mr. President—

Nixon: I feel the same way.

Kissinger: —is, first of all, we ought to get Haig over to the Pentagon as quickly as possible.27

Nixon: [laughs]

Kissinger: He’s—

[Page 659]

Nixon: What can he do over there?

Kissinger: What he can do over there is—we should put him in charge of a Vietnamese task force. We’ve got this Chairman of the Joint Chiefs who is a Navy lobbyist, and who doesn’t give a goddamn about the war in Vietnam, and we ought to put Haig in charge of it over in the Pentagon. We ought to put one man in charge of it in Saigon, because—

Nixon: Who? Whitehouse?

Kissinger: No. No, no. I mean one military guy. I’d put Vogt in charge.

Nixon: All right.

Kissinger: And then, we can get some real banging done—

Nixon: When?

Kissinger: —instead of having North Vietnam carved up into six little areas—28

Nixon: When? When? When? When?

Kissinger: —and then—now, the way I would play it, is this: assuming we have the press conference tomorrow or Saturday—there’s something to be said for having it Saturday, because that gets Le Duc Tho out of Paris, although he’ll be out of Paris by the time I’d go on.

Nixon: I’d worry about him.

Kissinger: Well, I’d just like—

Nixon: You probably think he doesn’t have a stage?

Kissinger: He won’t have a stage in Moscow.

Nixon: You mean, not to do the bombing, and so forth?

Kissinger: No, no. The bombing I would, then, resume within—over the weekend. Say something—

Nixon: While he’s still in Paris? What is it that you don’t want to do with him? What is it that you want to—don’t want to do while he’s in Paris?

Kissinger: I didn’t want him—I didn’t want to give our version of the negotiations while he’s still in Paris—

Nixon: It’s a good plan.

Kissinger: Let him kick off his own propaganda machine—

[Page 660]

Nixon: That’s right. That’s right.

Kissinger: I’d like to gain the twelve hours it takes to check with him—

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: —while he’s moving, but he’s going to leave Paris. If we have our press conference at noon, he’ll be out of Paris ’til six in the evening.

Nixon: Today is Thursday?

Kissinger: Yeah. We can do it tomorrow—

Nixon: I would not make your press conference, if you do it, I wouldn’t make it—I don’t know. Al and I talked about it last night, and I wonder if, maybe, we shouldn’t do it on the basis of, maybe, more on the Ziegler thing. [unclear]—

Kissinger: I think it’s a terrible mistake. Ziegler cannot answer the questions. It will look as if I’m hiding—

Nixon: Let’s leave you out of it, whether it looks as if you’re hiding or not. [unclear] We may want you to hide for your—for everybody’s good. Your own, everybody else’s. I mean, what do you think, Al? I don’t know. You’re the best to do it, there’s no question about that—

Kissinger: No, the bombing announcement—

Nixon: —but my point is—my point is—

Kissinger: I shouldn’t do the bombing announcement. What I think we should do is that I—no one else understands the negotiations well enough to explain. The way—

Nixon: [unclear]

Kissinger: —we’ve always snowed the press is by just overwhelming them with technical—

Nixon: All right.

Kissinger: [unclear]

Nixon: All right. What do you want to have come out?

Kissinger: What I want to—

Nixon: Think about it. What do you want to have the press report after Kissinger gives his 3-hour briefing to the press?

Kissinger: What we have the press report is, first of all—

Nixon: In other words, what are the points you want the press to report?

Kissinger: That peace was imminent; that it was Communist bad faith—not Saigon—that has prevented it; that—

Nixon: In other words, you want that they—I’m trying to get at something more fundamental. In other words, the press will report the peace talks have broken down.

[Page 661]

Kissinger: No. No, no. The peace talks are still open—

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: —but that the United States remains willing to settle it. The United States remains convinced that it could be settled—

Nixon: Hmm—

Kissinger: —in an extraordinarily short time—

Nixon: But you see—but—but then, the point is that—I’m trying to give you—you see, you’ve got to get—all right, that one point is the peace talks are not broken down; they are at an impasse. The impasse is the fault, primarily, of the North Vietnamese, who are insisting—who have—well, the points I made earlier. The third point is that we’re ready to resume at any time, on that. But the—then—then, you’ve got to get across the fact that we are not simply quibbling over language and translation—

Kissinger: That’s right—

Nixon: —and so forth. But what it is really about is—

Kissinger: What—

Nixon: It’s not only the fate of the South Vietnamese, it’s the fate—the fate of peace there. And also, let’s understand, we have our POWs there, and they have not—and they have refused. We had hoped to get this done before Christmas. We wanted our POWs, and we are—I’d like to get a flavor of stepping up the bombing at this time for the POW purposes, before he [Le Duc Tho] even comes. You get my point?

Kissinger: That’s right. [unclear]—

Nixon: Just stepping up the bombing for the purpose of getting them to talk is not going to be [laughs] a very easy one to wheel.

Kissinger: But for four years, we have said we would not sell out.

Nixon: I know—

Kissinger: And what these guys have tried to get us to do—that if they had been willing to implement the agreement of the end of October, it would have been easy.

Nixon: Um-hmm.

Kissinger: But every time we try to make it concrete on any issue that would inhibit their military action in the future—

Nixon: Um-hmm. Um-hmm.

Kissinger: —they were impossible. For—on the POWs—

Nixon: I know—

Kissinger: —we’ve asked them for a protocol, how the POWs would be—

Nixon: What I’d like for you to do, if you would, would be to sit down, later this afternoon or this evening—you’ve got plenty of time to [Page 662] think—put down on one sheet of paper, put five or six positive points you want the press to write, to come out of this. This is what we have to do. And then, let everything play around that, rather than giving the press what they would like. And that is simply a gory and brilliant analysis of what they did to us, and what we did to them, and we had it here and there, they had it there and there, and this and that. That will ruin us. That will really ruin us. If, on the other hand, we can—the public gets the impression that this broke because these bastards were at fault, that they want to impose a Communist government, they’re still holding our prisoners, and we want to get them back, and, consequently, the President is going to insist on taking the strong action to get this war over with. This war must end! It must end soon! And if they don’t want to talk, we will have to go get ’em. If they won’t return our prisoners, we want to hit them soon. We’re going to take the necessary military action to get them back. That’s what you’ve got to get across—

Kissinger: And what I would think, Mr. President, is we should not announce the bombing tomorrow. We should just start it—

Nixon: Announce it?

Kissinger: —on Saturday.29

Nixon: We’re not going to ever announce the bombing.

Kissinger: That’s right, and then—

Nixon: Then we’ve got [to]get—and Laird in?

Kissinger: Ron [Ziegler] can handle that one.

Nixon: No, just remind them. These have—no, we’ve always been bombing. We’ve just—this is fair—

Kissinger: [unclear]

Nixon: —the weather has been bad. Play that. Let’s be a little bit clever. The weather has been bad.

Kissinger: Well—

Nixon: They don’t know better.

Kissinger: Well—

Nixon: They don’t know better—

Kissinger: —it’s known that’s we stopped north of the 20th, and I think—

Nixon: All right, fine. Fine. Well—

Kissinger: And I think we can even use that as an advantage to show our goodwill—faith.

Nixon: All right. Fine.

[Page 663]

Kissinger: But, I think—

Nixon: We’ve stopped north of the [unclear]—

Kissinger: But I think we should resume that.

Nixon: I didn’t resume that. Why doesn’t he say: “We have resumed bombing. We have stepped up bombing?” Why build it up? Why escalate it that way? Just start bombing north of the 20th.

Haig: What I meant, it’s bound to make a hellish splash, Mr. President.

Nixon: When we do it?

Haig: When we do it—

Nixon: Then why explain it?

Haig: I—

Kissinger: No, he should just answer the questions.

Haig: The next day [unclear]—

Nixon: And what, then? What does he say, then?

Haig: Henry should say: “Yes, due to [unclear]—”

Nixon: Yeah.

Haig: —the current—

Nixon: No, see, because of the buildup. That’s what I’d say: buildup of the enemy, buildup north of the [unclear]. I’d put it on the basis, because of their buildup north of the 20th, it appears that they’re going to resume—

Kissinger: No.

Nixon: —activities.

Kissinger: No, Mr. President, on the—

Nixon: You see my point? Or, something like that. I mean, not on the basis of—if you start the bombing for the purpose, only, of getting them to accept this agreement, that ain’t going to work. If you start the bargaining, if the reason for it, after January 1st, which it must be, is only for the purpose of getting our prisoners back, that will work. But if you, at the present time, you can start bombing, say: “Because of significant enemy buildup activities north of that”—put it on military grounds, not on political grounds. Don’t say that we started bombing because they broke off negotiations. Don’t say that. Now, that’s just the wrong—

Kissinger: No—

Nixon: —decision.

Kissinger: —Mr. President, I think there’s a 50–50—

Nixon: They all know why we started.

Kissinger: I think there’s a 50–50 chance if we give them a tremendous wallop, particularly not the sort of shit the Air Force likes to do, if I may use this word—

[Page 664]

Nixon: I went over this with them—

Kissinger: —but if we did—

Nixon: It is shit.

Kissinger: If we got all their power plants in one day, so that the civilian population would be without light, knocked out all the docks in Haiphong, so that even if the harbor is cleared, they can’t unload there for months to come, then they would know it’s—

Nixon: What kinds of ships are still left around there? [unclear] aren’t there some?

Haig: Yeah—

Kissinger: We’d have to do it with smart bombs.

Nixon: Well, can then we knock out docks, then, without knocking out the ships? [unclear]—

Haig: Yes, there are certain dock facilities that can be taken out—

Nixon: [unclear]—

Kissinger: I’d frankly take my chance on the ships. Your great asset, Mr. President—

Nixon: All right. Take a chance on the ships. All right—

Kissinger: —is your unpredictability—

Nixon: Look, I’m going to do it. Now, the other thing is nobody—I am the only one who seems to be for this. I went over this with Moorer and Rush. Incidentally, he’s saying it’s fine. Don’t worry about him.

Kissinger: No, Rush is fine.

Nixon: He’ll stand fine with us. He—he felt that we should continue, and he thinks that, in the end, that we’ve got to make a deal, and so forth. But Rush will do. He says: “Whatever you decide on, I—”

Kissinger: We’ve got to make a deal.

Nixon: [unclear] but the point about the—the point about the—the reason I say take out all the goddamn airfields, Christ, the Israelis did it and it had quite an effect. Let’s do it.

Haig: [unclear]—

Nixon: Everything in the air—

Haig: Including the civilian ones—

Nixon: —including the big civilian—

Haig: —the military sides of ’em.

Nixon: Why not the civilian sides of them, too? What kinds of planes do you think—

Haig: Well, we could hit a—

Kissinger: Chinese and Russian.

Haig: Chinese and Soviets.

[Page 665]

Nixon: All right, fine. Can you go down the military side of it?

Haig: They tell me they can do it—

Nixon: Yeah? When?

Haig: —using smart bombs.

Nixon: Are we gonna have—are we gonna have, though—are we going to have a delay of four weeks before they get it done? These smart bombs can’t be used except in clear weather, isn’t that right? Aren’t they visual?

Haig: That’s right, sir. And the weather right now is absolutely bad.

Nixon: Oh, shit.

Haig: So, we’ve got to—

Nixon: Here we are again, Henry. We went through this the last year, as you remember.

Haig: I think the only way to do it is to give them about a—just tell them they have blanket authority to do it, because the worst thing we could do, is do a half-assed job the first time—

Nixon: I know. I know. I know, but, Al, suppose the weather—let’s talk. Suppose the weather stays bad through January 3d, when the Congress comes back? What in the hell do we get out of it—?

Kissinger: It’s impossible.

Haig: After that, you can’t.

Nixon: Huh?

Haig: That—that won’t be.

Kissinger: We’ve got—

Nixon: It won’t be bad that long?

Haig: No.

Nixon: That’s all right. Now, the other point is: what about the [B–]52s? Can’t they get in there now?

Kissinger: Yes.

Nixon: Well goddamnit, let’s get them in. What’s wrong with getting the ’52s in—?

Kissinger: Well, we’ve done—

Nixon: Are we afraid they’re going to be shot down?

Kissinger: Well, no. We’ve got the problem, Mr. President, let’s face it: the Chief—the Chairman of the Chiefs is a Navy lobbyist; he’s not a military commander. The Chiefs—

Nixon: He’s [unclear] ’52s?

Kissinger: The Chiefs only give a damn about budget categories. May 8th, you put your neck on the line and those bastards carved up Vietnam into areas of jurisdiction. They didn’t give one goddamn [Page 666] about the national interest. They gave a damn about their service interest.

Nixon: I know. You remember when Connally [unclear]—

Kissinger: You were—

Nixon: —[unclear] commander—

Kissinger: You were right—

Nixon: —so we put that asshole Weyand in there, who was worse than Abrams, if anything. Abrams is a—just a clod. I think he’s a good division commander, and everyone—

Kissinger: We made it.

Nixon: —liked him.

Kissinger: You were 100 percent right. We were all wrong—

Nixon: [unclear] mistake, who was right, and who was wrong. But the point is—

Kissinger: [unclear]—

Nixon: —it’s done now. We don’t have anybody in charge out there.

Kissinger: Well, Vogt can do it. We were all—

Nixon: I need—I need a [unclear]out there [unclear]—

Kissinger: Well, but he didn’t have the authority, Mr. President—

Nixon: We’ve got poor little Don Hughes is out there running the fighters.30 He can’t do a goddamn thing—

Kissinger: Well, because they—

Nixon: You have said it.

Kissinger: Because they—because there’s—there are four different commands bombing North Vietnam, Mr. President—

Nixon: All right, how do we change the four different commands? Can that be done, tomorrow? I’d like it today.

Kissinger: That can be done the day you give the order. If there’ll be—

Nixon: That’s got to get done immediately.

Kissinger: They’ll be—

Nixon: We can’t fart around.

Kissinger: There’ll be unbelievable screaming.

Nixon: Well, that’s the point. They’ve got to get it done right, for a change. We cannot make these military decisions and take all the heat, and have them screw it up again.

[Page 667]

Kissinger: But we’ve got to get a guy in the Pentagon who monitors it from a strategic point of view, and not a fiscal point of view. And we’ve got to get a guy out there who looks at it from a strategic point of view. Now, my judgment is that if you go bold, if we send a message the day the bombing starts saying, “We are ready to resume right away, but we want to warn you that if this agreement is not concluded by January 1st, we will not conclude it anymore, and we will work in a different framework.” That scares them. We have a 50–50 chance, then, of concluding it.

Nixon: Why not?

Kissinger: I believe a better than 50–50 chance.

Nixon: We’ve had a 50–50 so many times before.

Kissinger: Yeah, but—

Nixon: That’s all right. I don’t care. I don’t care.

Kissinger: I have to give you—

Nixon: Suppose it’s 10 to 90?

Kissinger: No, no. It’s better than 10 to 90. It may be 75–25, because these guys are on their last legs, too. They are scared to death of exactly what we’re talking about now, and they can’t take much more. If they will not settle by January 1st, then, at the end of December, at the last plenary session in Paris before December, I would scrap this proposal and go for a straight prisoner for withdrawal and end of bombing proposal—

Nixon: I know.

Kissinger: —and then, you’d be in good shape by the time Congress returns.

Nixon: Congress cannot return [unclear].

Kissinger: But I would not yet do that, because if you do it now—

Nixon: [unclear]—

Kissinger: —then, we missed the chance we have of wrapping up this agreement—

Nixon: [unclear] the proposal last week. The proposal last week said that we would bomb them for six months and just, you know, change the proposal right away.

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: We must not do that. We’ve got to play this string out. This string must be played out ’til the bitter end. It’s not—it may not be bitter, I don’t know. I’m afraid it is, and I’m afraid that they think they’ve got—

Kissinger: No, Mr. President—

Nixon: —us in a crack.

[Page 668]

Kissinger: No, if they thought they had us in a crack, they’d break.

Nixon: No, no, no. I think what—no, the reason they don’t break, I think, is much more fundamental than that. The reason they don’t break is that they know exactly the kind of a conversation—or they fear—is taking place now. If they broke, they’d know that conversation would take place. They think without breaking it, they’re going to be stringing us along. It’s the same old shit they’ve been through all the time, and the minute they break, they figure they’re going to get bombed. Well, they’re going to get bombed, even without breaking, because, while they haven’t broken, we know they have. That’s all that. I think—I think the breaking thing, which you, which you’re—they want to keep—they want to keep—they feel that by not—by keeping the negotiations open, by having the peaceniks in this country write: “Well, peace is very, very close. Things are going pretty well,” this and that, that that is a hell of an inhibiting force on me. You see? On the other hand, if they break, then they are at fault, and then they say: “Oh, Christ, we run the risk of getting bombed.” That’s why they’re not breaking, Henry, I think.

Kissinger: That’s—

Nixon: And you think there may be another reason?

Kissinger: They still want—they still [unclear]—

Nixon: You think they want peace?

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: Really?

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: Why?

Kissinger: If you read the instructions they’ve put out to their cadres. They have told their cadres: “Just hang on a little longer.”

Nixon: Yeah?

Kissinger: “It’s going—there is going to be peace.” I don’t think they can stand a long war. The factors that made them settle in October—when the mines start going in tomorrow, on Saturday, and they are—they are going to have one hell of a—

Nixon: Incidentally, do we have to wait too long to get the mines in?

Kissinger: Well, Saturday’s only a day and a half away.

Nixon: Oh, Christ. I’m just trying to think of anything that—well—

Kissinger: But this is pretty fast action. If you start—if you resume on Sunday—you resume the bombing on Sunday, then I would send Haig out. I don’t—I would not send the Vice President under—

Nixon: No.

Kissinger: —these circumstances.

[Page 669]

Nixon: No, no. The Vice President isn’t going out. The Vice President can’t take this heat. I mean, the Vice President will get out there, and what will happen is that Thieu will wrap him right around his little finger. He will, I know. If you send the Vice President as a missile with one single objective, with Al there to watch him like a hawk, then he can do it. But the Vice President will go out there, and Thieu will say—but he’ll show him, you know, that shit he’ll go through, and the Vice President will come back. He’ll say: “All right.” He’ll say the right things to Thieu there, but he’ll come back, and then he’ll argue to the President—to me—

Kissinger: Because—

Nixon: —privately: “Well, we shouldn’t do this, and we shouldn’t drop this, and we shouldn’t do that—”

Kissinger: Because Thieu’s—

Nixon: Trying to make his record for the future.

Kissinger: Because Thieu’s behavior has also been totally unforgivable, Mr. President—

Nixon: Terrible. Never said a goddamn word of thanks for what we’ve done standing by him, and the rest. He needs to be told that?

Kissinger: He’s—

Nixon: I am fed up with him, totally, right up to the [unclear]—

Kissinger: He’s been incompetent as a war leader—

Nixon: And, incidentally, they’re delaying the foundation, for it’s going to be withdrawal for prisoners. That’s the point. And that, they will—you think, they’ll accept withdrawal for prisoners?

Kissinger: Well, he proposed it in a letter to you.

Nixon: I don’t mean Thieu. I don’t give a goddamn what he accepts. Will the North accept it?

Kissinger: Not for three months.

Nixon: Do you agree?

Haig: I think they’re going to have to take some heavy pounding.

Kissinger: I think there’s a better chance that they’ll accept this agreement before January 1st—

Nixon: [unclear]

Kissinger: —than there is that they’ll accept withdrawal for prisoners. But, I have laid the basis of our going to withdrawal for prisoners, and—

Nixon: And we know we can’t wheel together.

Kissinger: —and, believe me, it scares them. Every time at the meeting that I say, “Now [unclear]remember one thing, this is your last chance of negotiating in this framework. Don’t forget this. Next time, [Page 670] we talk only military.” And every time he pulls back from that [unclear].

Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: This is why I wouldn’t play it yet.

Nixon: Well, what should we do with Dobrynin, on this?

Kissinger: I would just be enigmatic with Dobrynin.

Nixon: Tell him nothing?

Kissinger: I would say—

Nixon: You’re not going to see him?

Kissinger: I’ll see him, briefly. I’ll say we are totally fed up.

Nixon: I’ve got a little problem, you know. Tricia’s going to be there.31

Kissinger: They’ll treat her marvelously.

Nixon: Should she cancel?

Kissinger: No.

Nixon: [unclear]

Kissinger: No, we should keep our good relations with the Russians. We should give the impression that they were screwed just as we were, as indeed they were, Mr. President. The account that Dobrynin gave to Haig32 is, first of all, one they couldn’t have—

Nixon: The main thing to get across when the bombing goes, starts again, Al—remember this is something [unclear] and Ziegler will be talking about—the main point is that I really want this time, Henry, as I said, I don’t want a long talking sheet. I just want to see one page, like I do before I do a—

Kissinger: No, I’ll—

Nixon: —very important press thing. What are the points we want to pound into the consciousness of these dumb, left-wing enemies of ours in the press? Pound ’em out. Pound ’em out, and forget about it. Make all the other points, because that dazzles them. But remember, we’ve got an audience out there that’s ours. Talk to the 61 percent. Talk to—I know, everybody thinks they’re dummies—they were smart enough to vote for us.33

Kissinger: Mr. President, they saved us. They’re the good [unclear]—

[Page 671]

Nixon: [unclear] But they’ve got to hear it clear and loud and simple. Prisoners, they will understand. Treachery, they will understand. Changes of wording, they will not understand. Dates and d-d-d-d-d-d, they will not understand. But they’ll understand treachery, and they’ll understand the imposition of a Communist government on the people of South Vietnam. That, they will understand. Thieu’s not going along, they’ll understand that if it’s said in a way more in sorrow than in anger, but, that as far as we’re concerned, making it very clear, we are not hostage to either of the Vietnams.

Kissinger: That—

Nixon: We are the party that wants peace in Vietnam, for both sides. And let the future of this poor, suffering country be determined by the people of South Vietnam and not on the battlefield. That’s what our proposal is. We call on the South and we call on the North to agree to this kind of thing. Call on them both to agree. You can—

Kissinger: I think that they—

Nixon: —make quite a little show you put on out there.

Kissinger: That’s—

Nixon: On the other hand, I think it should be done like today.

Kissinger: No, I think we should wait ’til tomorrow. Give Dobrynin a chance to get—so that his people aren’t stunned by it.

Nixon: What do you mean Dobrynin?

Kissinger: I think the Russians shouldn’t be stunned.

Nixon: Oh. Why would they be more stunned today than tomorrow?

Kissinger: Because, today, they’ve had no preparations. I can tell Dobrynin, today, you’re fed up, then Brezhnev will have read it tomorrow, and then, by the time I go on, it will be—also, I—

Nixon: This is not the time when I should tell Dobrynin.

Kissinger: No, because—I’ll tell you why, Mr. President—

Nixon: All right. Don’t use him.

Kissinger: Let me tell you—

Nixon: I don’t want to—

Kissinger: No, let me tell you why not.

Nixon: But understand, I’m ready to—we’ve got to play the big bullet, and we’ll use it—

Kissinger: No, but Mr. President—

Nixon: —I think that’s the only bullet, but I will not play it, not in front of that—in front of these television cameras, again, and make one of these asshole Vietnam speeches. This is not the time.

Kissinger: You were right. You were right—

[Page 672]

Nixon: We can’t do it.

Kissinger: No, you were right.

Nixon: You can’t rally people when they’re up there already.

Kissinger: You were [unclear]—

Nixon: You can rally them when they’re on their ass.

Kissinger: —I was wrong.

Nixon: No, you’re not right or wrong. It’s just a question of what you know.

Kissinger: But the—

Nixon: Go ahead.

Kissinger: But the reason you shouldn’t—

Nixon: Never.

Kissinger: —intervene directly is we should not make Vietnam an issue in your relations with Brezhnev.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: We should have the Russians in the position where they say, “These crazy, stupid—”

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: “—lying sons-of-bitches in Hanoi—”

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: “—have screwed us again.”

Nixon: Well, now, the question: what are you going to do about—what should we do—I asked Al about this yesterday—should we get Rogers, Laird, Moorer, Helms in? And we’d have to have the poor, poor Vice President, too. I think he’ll listen.

Kissinger: Yeah. I would do it Saturday morning.

Nixon: Before the bombing?

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: Yeah, but Laird will—with all the orders [unclear]—

Kissinger: I wouldn’t evade it.

Nixon: Huh?

Kissinger: I wouldn’t evade it. I’d say: “I’ve got you in, gentleman, to tell you you’re [I’m]commander-in-chief.” Let me give them a brief—a short briefing. I would not ask their advice—

Nixon: Could I ask you—could I ask you—

Kissinger: Or you could do it tomorrow afternoon.

Nixon: Yeah. Could I ask you, incidentally, you’re going to do the briefing for the press, and we’ll do it tomorrow afternoon, but could you, Henry, take the time, today, to lay the framework for that by enlisting a few people?

[Page 673]

Kissinger: Absolutely.

Nixon: All right. Now, the ones you should enlist, it seems to me—

Kissinger: Is the Vice President?

Nixon: You should tell the Vice President: “Look, the spee—the thing is off,” and then say: “The President doesn’t want you to get out there on a loser, and at this point, we’re not ready. Later on, we may have to use you, because we haven’t got an agreement.” You understand?

Kissinger: Right.

Nixon: Now, he’ll talk about the fact, “Well, let me go out and negotiate with him.” You can say, “No, Mr. Vice President, you don’t have a negotiating stroke.” [unclear]—

Kissinger: We shouldn’t negotiate with either of the Vietnamese—

Nixon: You understand that the real reason is I don’t want him negotiating with even Guatemala, because, as you know, he doesn’t have what we know, understand. But you point out if you can see him—or Al can see him, either one, either—the second one—

Kissinger: Yes.

Nixon: —I think you should see—I think—there’s the Rogers thing.

Kissinger: I’ll see him.

Nixon: And I think—I don’t know how you handle Rogers. I haven’t seen him since the meeting in Camp David, and—but I—but he’s not whimpered about everything we’ve done. So, what do you think? How do you think Rogers should be handled? I just don’t want to face Rogers at the meeting—

Haig: [unclear]—

Nixon: I want Rogers as an ally Saturday morning.

Haig: [unclear]—

Nixon: Tell him our whole foreign policy—

Kissinger: The fact of the matter is Rogers will try to use it to do me in, but he will not necessarily—

Nixon: Yeah?

Kissinger: There’ll be two things happening. Rogers will support you at the meeting—

Nixon: Yeah?

Kissinger: —and he will leak out stuff that I screwed it up. Now, those are two inevitable—

Nixon: [unclear]

Kissinger: —results.

[Page 674]

Nixon: Let me say, all that doesn’t matter. How many times have they done that to both of us?

Kissinger: That’s right. But he’ll support you—

Nixon: One time I screwed it up, the other time you screwed up. The main thing is winning, isn’t it?

Kissinger: That’s right. I don’t give a damn—

Nixon: The main thing is—look, the main thing is how we look four years from now. Four years we’re going to be here.

Kissinger: That’s why—

Nixon: Goddamn those bastards. And listen, they don’t realize. I mean, you—I mean, I will not do anything foolish. That’s why I won’t go on the television, or anything like that. I won’t do anything foolish. But—I won’t say anything foolish—but I will do things that are goddamn rash as hell, ’cause I don’t give a goddamn what happens. I don’t care. I don’t really care—

Kissinger: Mr. President, it’s painful for me, but if you do—if you don’t do this, it will be like the EC–121.34 The Russians—you got more credit with the Russians—

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: —and this—

Nixon: I know that.

Kissinger: —they’ll pay attention to.

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: Now, we’re going to take unshirted hell, again, here in this country. I can just see the cartoons and the editorials—

Nixon: Sure.

Kissinger: —and the news stories—

Nixon: Sure. Sure. And let me tell you, over Christmas period and the rest, it isn’t going to make that much difference because they ain’t going to have pictures of American casualties, and they aren’t going to have—they’ll hear about there are a few missing planes in action, but, Henry, the war is a non-issue at the moment. Right, Al?

Haig: Right. Right—

Nixon: Sure, it’s in the headlines about peace, and all that, but [Page 675] that’s the assholes like Reston, and the rest like him. But the average person doesn’t give a damn.

Kissinger: Mr. President, everybody will have to believe, that can be convinced, that we made a tremendous effort. If it fails—

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: [unclear]—

Nixon: And that we will not—we will not agree to a peace that is a peace of surrender. Put it that way.

Kissinger: That was our position—

Nixon: And that we will not agree to a peace that is a peace of surrender. We will not agree to a peace that is a peace that imposes a Communist government. And that we—and you say that, you lay those conditions on it, but that now, on the other hand, we’re ready at any time to negotiate for peace. They were willing to negotiate as of three weeks ago. Now, it’s time we find out. But that’s the end of it. We’re not going to be impotent under these circumstances, at a time they are building up. You see, the rationale for the bombing, Al, must be a buildup in the North. Just say that. Christ, everybody’s going to think that it’s true.

Haig: It is true.

Nixon: It’s true. They’ve restored the goddamn power plants, and the rest, so we’re bombing the North again, because they’re building up the North—

Kissinger: [unclear] they have the biggest—that’s another thing, Mr. President. They have the biggest infiltration, a bigger one than last year, going on right now.

Nixon: Don’t worry about that at the moment. I mean that’s—that’s true, but wait, but my point is, without going into infiltration and the rest, we just have to say: “Because of a—there’s a big enemy buildup in the war, and they’re not going to trick us, so we’re going to bomb them.” We’ll take the heat right over the Christmas period, and then, on January 3d, it’s prisoners for withdrawal.

Kissinger: You can do that. I forget when January 1st is. I think—

Nixon: January 1st is a Monday.

Kissinger: It’s a Monday?

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: The Thursday before that, whenever that is, it would be about the 28th of December, we table in Paris. We scrap this plan and table in Paris: straight prisoner, and withdrawal, and end of bombing—I mean, withdrawal and end of bombing for prisoners.

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: Let them—they’ll turn it down right away; we’ll be in good shape.

[Page 676]

Nixon: Fine. Then we just continue to, continue bombing them. Now, Laird will bitch about the cost of this.

Haig: Right.

Nixon: Now, what is it? Sure, it’s a problem. How much is the cost of this?

Kissinger: It’s pretty high.

Haig: It—

Nixon: Bombing?

Haig: The real scrub will be about $3 billion, if it had to go through ’til—to June. If it stops short of that, we’re talking about 1.5.

Kissinger: I think, Mr. President—

Nixon: You think 1.5—?

Kissinger: —these guys—

Nixon: The Defense Department is going to have to swallow it, anyway, because we’re not going to continue to have four intelligence departments, and four tactical air forces. That’s one thing we’re changing over at that goddamn place, when you get there.

Kissinger: But they were willing to—the other side, we must look at it realistically. The other side was practically on their knees in October. They’d never have gotten as far as they did. It is not a bad agreement. It’s a good agreement, if it’s observed. If it’s observed, the other side will be forced to withdraw. What we have to do, though, is to convince them that we are not easily pushed around. If we cave now, the agreement will be unenforceable, and we will have—

Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: —signed something that—

[unclear exchange]

Nixon: Well, all right. This is the way. Now, let’s—you will go when? You just—last night, we felt that Ziegler should do it. Do you agree Henry should do it now? It’s a tough call, isn’t it?

Haig: It is a tough call because there are so much in the business of answering questions and—

Nixon: Well, I think Henry has to do it for another reason, maybe. Look, and we can’t claim that he’s hiding—

Haig: It will—

Nixon: —or that I’m hiding—

Haig: —look contrived.

Nixon: Huh?

Haig: It will look contrived. It—

Nixon: Or that I—

Haig: That’s right.

[Page 677]

Nixon: Now—

Kissinger: Ron has neither the conviction, nor the authority, Mr. President—

Nixon: Well, he has the conviction.

Kissinger: But he can’t project it because he doesn’t know enough.

Nixon: No, no. I know. No, Ron doesn’t give a shit about the bombing. He doesn’t care. He’s sure to go right ahead and do it. Don’t have any ideas about [unclear]—

Kissinger: No, no. He has the convic—no, he’s backed the policy—

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: —but he cannot present the negotiations with—

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: —conviction.

Nixon: I understand.

Kissinger: I don’t present the bombing anyway. That, Ron should do in answer to questions.

Haig: The morning it happens, he just—

Nixon: Yeah.

Haig: —says he’s not sure.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: Tomorrow, all we do—

Nixon: [unclear]—

Kissinger: —is to—

Nixon: I know.

Kissinger: —is to explain where we stand—

Nixon: I’m not worried about the bombing as some others are. I think you’re going to have the heat in the magazines, and so forth and on, and Sevareid, and Rather, and all those jackasses. Cronkite will cry buckets of tears. Everybody says: “Why do the bombing over Christmas? Weather is it, and so forth?” Can we get one message to Thieu: please stop the crap about a Christmas-to-New Year’s truce, right now. Right now.

Kissinger: Immediately.

Nixon: No—there ain’t going to be no truce. Or do we—or shouldn’t we do that?

Kissinger: Absolutely.

Nixon: Because I can’t stop this over Christmas.

Kissinger: Absolutely not.

Haig: We can stop it Christmas Day. I—I don’t know what to do.

Kissinger: I wouldn’t stop it. Once we go, we keep going. Maybe Christmas Day—

[Page 678]

Nixon: Now, maybe, Al’s got a point. Christmas Day, that’s all, but not New Year’s. Except for Christmas Day, there will be no—there will be no truce, except for Christmas Day.

Kissinger: We can get that to—

Nixon: Just say: “Except for Christmas Day, there will be no truce.” I don’t want anybody flying over Christmas Day. People would not understand that. There’s always been a truce; World War I, World War II, and so forth. All right, the main thing is for you to get rested and get ready for all this and go out there and just remember that when it’s toughest, that’s when we’re the best. And remember, we’re going to be around and outlive our enemies. And also, never forget, the press is the enemy.

Kissinger: On that, there’s no question—

Nixon: The press is the enemy. The press is the enemy. The establishment is the enemy. The professors are the enemy. Professors are the enemy. Write that on the blackboard 100 times and never forget it.

Kissinger: I, on the professors—

Nixon: Always—

Kissinger: —I need no instruction at all.

Nixon: Always—

Kissinger: And on the press, I’m in complete agreement with you—

Nixon: It’s the enemy. So we use them, at times. But remember, with the exception, now and then, of a—I think Wilson, maybe—there are two or three—Howard Smith. Yes, there are still a few patriots, but most of them are—they’re very disappointed because we beat ’em in the election. They know they’re out of touch with the country. It kills those bastards. They are the enemy, and we’re just gonna continue to use them, and never let them think that we think they’re the enemy. You see my point? But the press is the enemy. The press is the enemy. That’s all.

Kissinger: Mr. President, if you don’t do this—

Nixon: [laughs]

Kissinger: —you’ll be—

Nixon: I’ll do it.

Kissinger: —then you’ll really be impotent, and you’ll be caught between the liberals and the conservatives. You won’t win the liberals. And—and, besides, we’ll be totally finished by February. They’ll be just be chopping the salami.

Nixon: There’s another one that you’ve got to—you’ve got—that I think is very important, that I want you to—I want to talk, and I want to you to get to—I want you to have a private talk with Rush. Rush can [Page 679] work on Laird. And Rush, of course, will be in State, in eventual time. Rush will be loyal.

Kissinger: Rush is—

Nixon: Rush believed last week, when we got these messages—when Al was coming back—he thought we did—you know, that this is exactly the thing to do, and he analyzed it beautifully. He says the problem is here. He says that Saigon’s interests and North Vietnam’s interest are different from our own, so we’ve got to—

[unclear exchange]

Nixon: He’s totally right. But the point is, we can’t make a deal which plays either interest. But Rush must be sold. Now, what about Moorer?

Haig: Moorer’s a whore.

Kissinger: He is. He’s a whore. He’ll do whatever he’s told.

Nixon: Helms?

Kissinger: I’ll get him.

Nixon: Helms is going to get a marvelous—oh, incidentally, when he goes to Iran, I want him to roam. Let him roam down on to those goddamn sheikdoms. Let him go around, you know, to see the Southeast and the rest. I mean he—he’s—

Kissinger: Helms is a loyalist.

Nixon: He’ll do a lot of good. What I mean is, he’s going to be an Ambassador extraordinary over there.

Kissinger: We—we won’t have any problems with Helms.

[Omitted here is discussion of Helms’s appointment as Ambassador to Iran and other Ambassadorial appointments.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation 823–1. No classification marking. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Kissinger and Haig met with Nixon in the Oval Office from 10:08 to 11:46 a.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files) The editors transcribed the portions of the conversation printed here specifically for this volume. Nixon, Kissinger, and Haig each discuss this meeting in their respective memoirs. See RN, pp. 733–734; White House Years, pp. 1447–1448; and Inner Circles, p. 309.
  2. See Document 115.
  3. In White House Years Kissinger characterized the “concessions” as “improvements,” and also wrote about the just completed November round of negotiating: “I had begun to be seized with a premonition of disaster independent of the issues involved…. If my instincts were right, worse was yet to come.” (pp. 1422–1423)
  4. Although the November 20–25 round is being discussed here, no incident in Kissinger’s reporting messages to Washington on the round, or in the memoranda of conversation of the meetings held during the round, resembles the scenario described.
  5. See Documents 131 and 134.
  6. During the November 20–25 talks, Kissinger met the South Vietnamese diplomats several times. See footnote 3, Document 115; footnote 4, Document 116; footnotes 3 and 4, Document 117; footnote 3, Document 120; Document 125; and footnote 3, Document 126.
  7. See Document 120.
  8. Xuan Thuy was also at the December 4 meeting; see Document 139.
  9. Together Nixon and Kissinger met with Duc on November 29 and 30. On the same days, Kissinger also saw Duc without Nixon; see Documents 131 and 134.For Kissinger’s two meetings with Duc on December 1, see Document 138.
  10. December 5.
  11. December 9.
  12. At the December 11 meeting; see Document 156.
  13. For a detailed discussion of the protocols at the December 13 meeting, see Document 171.
  14. James Reston’s December 13 column stated: “it is a question of whether the cease-fire … will acknowledge in a few simple unambiguous words that the Saigon Government has sovereign right and authority over all the territory of South Vietnam.” (“Mr. Kissinger in Paris,” The New York Times, December 13, 1972, p. 35)
  15. December 11.
  16. See footnote 5, Document 139.
  17. December 12.
  18. Document 166.
  19. In conversation with these senior advisers Nixon occasionally referred to three speeches he had delivered to the nation on the war in Southeast Asia: on November 3, 1969, he announced his Vietnamization policy; on April 30, 1970, that the Cambodian Incursion had begun and the reasons for it; and on May 8, 1972, that he had ordered the mining of Haiphong Harbor and other ports along North Vietnam’s coastline as well as a stepped-up bombing campaign against the North. For the text of the speeches, see, respectively, Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, pp. 901–909; ibid., 1970, pp. 405–410; and ibid., 1972, pp. 583–587.
  20. A reference to the Indo-Pakistani war of late 1971.
  21. For the records of Kissinger’s meetings with Thieu in Saigon in October, see Documents 27, 29, 32, 36, 4143, 48, and 49.
  22. See Document 160.
  23. See Document 73.
  24. These were points in the peace proposal Nixon made in his speech to the nation on May 8, 1972.
  25. A reference to Le Duc Tho’s departure from Paris for Hanoi.
  26. The approximate number of United States military personnel still in South Vietnam.
  27. Haig was scheduled to become Vice Chief of Staff of the Army in January 1973.
  28. The United States military divided North Vietnam into 7, not 6, Route Packages (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6A, and 6B), from south to north, to allocate bombing assignments. MACV controlled airstrikes in the southernmost Route Package, RP 1, just north of the DMZ; the U.S. Navy controlled RPs 2, 3, 4, and 6B, north from the DMZ to the sector east of Hanoi and then north to the buffer zone abutting North Vietnam’s border with China; and the U.S. Air Force controlled RPs 5 and 6A which included the area from Hanoi north to the buffer zone. On occasion the Air Force might carry out sorties in RP 6B and the Navy in RP 6A.
  29. December 16.
  30. Major General James Donald Hughes, USAF, Deputy Commander, 7th/13th Air Force, Thailand.
  31. Nixon’s daughter, Tricia Nixon Cox, and her husband were then in Europe and expected to be in the Soviet Union during the time North Vietnam would be bombed.
  32. See Document 161.
  33. The percentage of the popular vote Nixon received in the general election on November 7.
  34. Reference to an April 1969 incident when North Korean fighter aircraft shot down an EC–121 Warning Star on a reconnaissance mission over the Sea of Japan. All 31 U.S. military personnel on board died. Laird, without informing the White House, stopped the missions and several weeks went by before they began again. Haig later wrote that, as a result, “A vivid and probably ineradicable impression of presidential indecision and vacillation had been planted in the minds of our adversaries.” (Inner Circles, p. 208)