104. Memorandum From Richard Kennedy and William Stearman of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • CIA Action Proposals for Cambodia

Bill Colby sends you suggested measures to be taken in Cambodia if the GKR weathers the next few weeks of military action. (Tab A).2 After this period prospects for the survival of the GKR will be [Page 422] good enough to consider additional remedial action. The paper, summarized below, suggests such action.

The Problem

  • —The Khmer Communists may now be undertaking the military offensive to destroy the GKR as a functioning entity. Our mission in Phnom Penh—and Sir Robert Thompson—believe the Communists will not succeed. CIA gives the Communists a fifty-fifty chance.
  • —The GKR’s problems are not rooted in lack of resources, but in ineptitude resulting from poor leadership and the lack of coherent programs.
  • —Should the GKR check or stalemate the Khmer Insurgents in the months ahead, Vietnamese Communists might still tip the scales militarily. This could rekindle Khmer nationalism and hatred for Vietnamese invaders, which would make a political settlement more attractive to Hanoi.

Proposed Measures—to be taken over the next two or three months—to improve the effectiveness of the GKR in prosecuting the war:

  • Declaration of Martial Law by the GKR with real penalties for crimes (hoarding, taking bribes, deserting, etc.) impeding the war effort. Steps should also be taken to render military officers, even at the highest level, subject to military discipline.
  • An “Arm the People” program to be started in the Phnom Penh area—and later extended—so the people will feel they are participating in collective defense. The U.S. would have to provide weapons.
  • A “Pay the Troops” program. Late or no pay to Cambodian troops has greatly hurt FANK morale.
  • A top-level advisor to the GKR. Lon Nol asked President Nixon, on August 6, for such an advisor.3 He would help surface effective leadership in the GKR and coordinate the type of internal GKR political, military and propaganda programs the situation now requires.
  • —Expand present efforts to exploit the enemy’s weaknesses. All fire fights and frictions between the KI and Vietnamese Communists must be systematically publicized by all available media. (CIA is already broadcasting one black and two gray radio programs in Khmer and Vietnamese languages designed to cause such friction.) Additional suggested proposals are:
    • Exploit Khmer fears of Vietnamese expansionism by: (a) surfacing “captured” NVN directives providing for the creation of NVN- [Page 423] controlled regions in Cambodia; (b) fabricating documents of KI complaints of inadequate deliveries of munitions from the NVA/VC.
    • Exploit KI doubts about Sihanouk by surfacing fabricated messages showing he is prepared to double-cross the communists.

Our comments on Colby’s proposals follow:

  • —This paper is dated and needs to be made current.
  • —Ongoing psywar activity to exploit friction between the KI and Vietnamese Communists should be intensified. Also, CIA should exploit available intelligence and, if necessary, fabricate documents toward this end. We do not recommend such operations involving Sihanouk since our involvement would be assumed.
  • —The GKR penalizing for crimes and enforcing military discipline in the officer corps is sound, but we question that the GKR can effectively enforce full martial law. Our emphasis should be pressing the GKR to effect reforms—and tighten controls—with perhaps limited martial law.
  • —The “Arm the People” program would probably accomplish little and run the risk of losing weapons to the enemy. The GKR should concentrate on inducting more soldiers into FANK. As an alternative means to engage the populace in the war effort, we should explore social mobilization programs that would involve Cambodian civilians in medical, school rebuilding, and other such endeavors.

At Tab B is a memorandum from you to Colby4 requesting that he continue and intensify present CIA psywar efforts to exploit splits between the KI and the Vietnamese Communists and to undertake new operations toward this goal but none specifically directed against Sihanouk. The memorandum also asks Colby to refine and make more specific other measures proposed in his paper and circulate the results as a WSAG paper to its principals.


That you sign the memorandum at Tab B.5

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1338, Unfiled Material, NSC Unfiled, 1973 (7). Secret; Sensitive; Outside the System.
  2. CIA memorandum, “Action Proposals for Cambodia,” August 28, attached but not printed.
  3. The Embassy in Phnom Penh sent Lon Nol’s note in telegram 8076, August 6, wih the request to pass the message to the White House. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)
  4. Unsigned, undated memorandum to Colby, attached but not printed.
  5. In a handwritten notation at the top of the first page of the memorandum, Kissinger wrote: “No—I don’t sign directives like that. Let CIA propose them for approval.”