335. Memorandum From the Assistant to the President (Haldeman) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Vietnam

I got into a discussion with the President yesterday about your appearance before Congress.2 Below is a summary of that discussion. Perhaps it will be helpful in relation to your appearance.

When you go to the Capitol you must at all costs give no quarter whatever to the doves. Any tilt to your remarks must be toward the side of those who have stood with us rather than to those who have always opposed us.
We must emphasize these points:
This was a peace with honor which achieved the major goals for which the war was waged.
We were able to get a settlement that under no stretch of the imagination can possibly be described as a coalition government and one that assures the right of the people of South Vietnam to determine their future without having a Communist government imposed upon them, directly or indirectly.
The settlement we achieved, rather than being a bug-out which might have ended the war for us, is one that ends the war for the 50 million people of Indochina. This is a fundamental point that has not adequately been brought out except in the line that the President wrote into his speech at the last moment. The difference between the Senate and House doves’ position of POWs for withdrawal and the peace we finally got is very simply that the prisoners for withdrawal proposal would have meant that the United States would get out and let the war go ahead. In other words, it would end the war for us and have the war continue for those that remained with 1,000 casualties a week at least [Page 1171] ad infinitum. What we have done by sticking in there was to get a peace which ends the war for the long-suffering people of South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos as well.
You should be prepared to point out how the settlement has been improved from October and also why it was not possible to settle in December. It is obvious that our critics are already beginning to pick up the line with some assist from Hanoi that we could have had the same settlement we eventually achieved in October or in December when the talks broke down. We know this is totally untrue but the point must be made simply and directly without too much detail.
You should flatly indicate, whenever you get the opportunity, that the resolutions passed by the House and Senate caucuses over the years we were negotiating and by the full Senate from time to time prolonged the war, and only by the strong action that we took in December were we able to convince the enemy that the enemy should settle and not take the risk of waiting for the Congress to give them even more than they were willing to settle for with us.

In essence, the simple points must be made that our opponents in the Congress and in the media wanted to end the war in Vietnam with dishonor and what amounted really to an abject surrender and defeat for the United States. We persisted in seeing it through until the war was ended with honor. Our opponents would have ended the war in a way that would have led at the very least to a Communist coalition government for South Vietnam or a totally Communist government for South Vietnam. We have ended in a way that assures the people of South Vietnam the right to determine their own future in free, internationally supervised elections, which means that there will be no Communist government unless the people want it and this is something that no one anticipates will really happen.

Finally, our opponents with all their talk about peace were only interested in getting peace for America and would have ended our involvement in a way that would have allowed the war to continue indefinitely for the long-suffering people of Indochina. In other words, peace with honor means peace with independence for South Vietnam and peace for the people of Southeast Asia. Peace with surrender and dishonor means peace for us but a Communist government for South Vietnam and continued war for the 50 million people of Indochina.

You should make these points strongly and vigorously before the Congress in your opening statement without going into any detail. Perhaps the opening statement should be no more than 10 minutes and then you could field questions. Rather than educating the Congress on all the details, it is more important that we leave them with three or [Page 1172] four simple, hard messages that they can understand and that they, we hope, will go out and peddle to others.3

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 341, Subject Files, HAK/President Memos. Eyes Only. “Personal” and “Eyes Only” are written on the first page in an unknown hand. Printed from a copy that Haldeman did not initial or sign.
  2. As scheduled, Kissinger briefed members of the Senate and House of Representatives in separate meetings the afternoon of January 26. (“Kissinger Vows a Congress Role in Aid for Hanoi,” The New York Times, January 27, 1973, p. 1)
  3. According to Haldeman, the President, who was in Key Biscayne, told him after Kissinger’s briefing that: “K, at Congress, didn’t make the point [of building up what the President has done] and the whole thing has to do with the lasting effect, which is how it happened, regarding the character of the man—how he toughed it through.” Haldeman continued: “Why not say that without the P’s courage we couldn’t have had this?” Nixon then talked to his Assistant for Legislative Affairs, William Timmons, in Washington to “get a reading” on Kissinger’s Congressional appearance. According to Haldeman, Timmons confirmed that Kissinger hadn’t “hit the critics at all, that there was no criticism of Congress for their resolutions, he didn’t turn any of the questions around to get our points. He did cover May 8 and the change of attitude. When asked if the [Christmas] bombing did it, he said we don’t know, but it could have been a change in North Vietnam’s doves and hawks balance. He didn’t say that what Congress has done has hurt, but he didn’t have any questions on that, either. He had a lot on specifics and what we expect on foreign aid. There was a little on the buildup, but mostly on futures over there, how it works and all. K is very popular, got good applause, including from our opponents, and a standing and prolonged ovation at the House, but he didn’t make our points.” ( Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia Edition, January 27)