202. Telephone Conversation Between President Nixon and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

Nixon: Hey, Henry.

Kissinger: Mr. President?

Nixon: Hi.

Kissinger: I just wanted to tell you that the third wave of B–52s got out, and no planes shot down.

Nixon: Good.

Kissinger: So out of 90 today we only had one damaged, and that returned to the base.

Nixon: Good.

Kissinger: So—

Nixon: Did they hit anything? The—

Kissinger: Well, Radio Hanoi has been off the air for ten hours.

Nixon: All right. Good.

Kissinger: And that is bound to create havoc up there.

Nixon: Good.

Kissinger: Because they rely on that radio, and also it’s the radio on which all their guerrillas rely for news and instructions.

Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: So, I think we’re giving them a message they won’t forget so easily.

Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: Actually, when one reads Xuan Thuy’s statement today, it’s reasonably restrained.2

Nixon: Um-hmm.

Kissinger: So they may go tough on us tomorrow.

Nixon: Well, if they do, they do, right?

Kissinger: I think, Mr. President, it’s the only right course.

[Page 762]

Nixon: Sure. Well, it—but, you know, it’s interesting that that fellow Sullivan, who of course is, basically, play the winners, but you really think that he honestly thinks we did the right thing, or—

Kissinger: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. No question—

Nixon: Or do you think he’s just playing the games?

Kissinger: No. Well, he probably—

Nixon: He wants to be Ambassador to the Philippines, which is nice—

Kissinger: Sure. He sharply plays his—the game, but—

Nixon: He didn’t think we’d do it, huh?

Kissinger: He—oh, no. [laughs] I told him in Paris that, when we left, he said, “Well, the President is caught between the two Vietnamese parties.” I said, “The worst mistake anyone can make is to think this President lets himself be caught.” I said, “I have no idea what he’s going to do but my guess is he’ll turn on both of them.”

Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: And I think if we now get the agreement it makes it enforceable.

Nixon: Um-hmm. Ha. That’s the point, isn’t it?

Kissinger: Exactly. Now we’ve got—we got their attention.

Nixon: Yeah. Well, as a matter of fact, the whole business about the bombing, it hasn’t raised all that much hell yet.

Kissinger: No, it’s amazing; it has raised very little hell.

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: People don’t give a damn whether it’s a B–52 or a DC–3.

Nixon: That’s right. And the point is that they realize that we’ve got to do something. We just can’t sit here.

Kissinger: And of course, that—[chuckles] they’re a little handicapped, because Radio Hanoi isn’t putting anything out.

Nixon: Um-hmm.

Kissinger: So they don’t know what the line is.

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: They’ve been off the air now for, well, for 10 hours.

Nixon: Good. Now, when are you going to hear from Haig?

Kissinger: Well Haig is seeing Thieu again tomorrow, so I should hear by noon.

Nixon: Hmm.

Kissinger: But he already saw Lon Nol. Lon Nol thinks that Thieu is crazy. He doesn’t understand why he [Thieu]doesn’t jump at it.

Nixon: He does?

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Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: Good. He’s convinced him at least.

Kissinger: Oh, yeah. Oh, no, we’ll—we’ll come out of this, if we get an agreement now, we’ll come out a lot stronger.

Nixon: Yeah. Well, the main thing is we’re—we’ve got a few chips. We didn’t have any before, and now we’ve got some, and at very great cost, but to hell with it.

Kissinger: Well, Mr. President, it’s—if it works, it’s going to be like May 8th.

Nixon: Yeah. And if it doesn’t work, we’ve still got an option.

Kissinger: Well, if it doesn’t work we: a) got an option, and b) we are no worse off then—even then, better off than having done nothing.

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: Because the other thing had a much better chance of not working. Bill Sullivan told me how they stonewalled us in the technical meetings.

Nixon: Yeah. Yeah. [laughter]Okay.

Kissinger: Right, Mr. President—

Nixon: Well, Sullivan’s earned Philippines as a result of this.3

Kissinger: Yeah, he certainly has.

Nixon: And we’ll put him there.

[Omitted here is further discussion about possible Ambassadorial appointments to Australia and Indonesia.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation 34–138. No classification marking. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon and Kissinger spoke from 8:18 to 8:22 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files) The editors transcribed the portions of the conversation printed here specifically for this volume.
  2. Xuan Thuy held a news conference in Paris on December 19. See “Thuy Puts Blame on U.S.,” The New York Times, December 20, 1972, p. 14.
  3. He became Ambassador to the Philippines in July 1973.