167. Minutes of the Secretary of State’s Regionals Staff Meeting1

PROCEEDINGS

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Vietnam.]

Mr. Maw: Has the leadership meeting been scheduled on Indochina yet?2

Secretary Kissinger: I think it has.

Mr. Maw: It has. There’s a paper on your desk from the President.3

Secretary Kissinger: Yes. I was told about it. I’m not in favor of sending a Congressional delegation to Indochina. That’s one of those gimmicks that doesn’t do you a bit of good. People aren’t going to vote on the basis of what they see in Indochina.

Mr. Habib: On the basis of what they see. To get a report back to Congress that sets forth the situation as seen by the group.

Secretary Kissinger: First of all, the leadership won’t go; so they’re going to send a bunch of young—well, I’ll take it up with the President.

Mr. Habib: I wish you wouldn’t dismiss it so quickly.

Let me just point out a couple to things, if I could. People were meeting on this thing while you were away,4 trying to get that paper for you before you came up with the proposal of the Congressional delegation, because it was felt that without it we didn’t have a chance on the Hill—that with it, if the delegation would make the kind of report which would just simply state the fact they could come to any conclusion they want, but the fact itself—

Secretary Kissinger: Well, the whole thing is a classic misrepresentation which nobody has straightened out yet.

Mr. Habib: That’s correct.

Secretary Kissinger: There’s no question of principle involved here whatsoever. They appropriated 700 million. They make it sound as if we suddenly ran out of money, and we’re asking for 300 million more. We authorized a billion, and we’re therefore willing to to live within [Page 615]the authorization. That is the fact. It isn’t as if we’re asking out of thin air—asking for 300 million more.

Mr. Habib: Let’s not forget Cambodia. It’s an entirely different case.

Secretary Kissinger: It is people who lost the debate in ‘71–’72 that are now trying to prove they were right all along.

Mr. Habib: That’s correct; absolutely correct.

Secretary Kissinger: By sacrificing Viet-Nam. There’s no other explanation.

Mr. Habib: And by arguing two things—No. 1, that we have violated the Agreement—which is true.

Secretary Kissinger: Well, we went through all of this for four years.

Mr. Habib: I think we’re going to have to go through all of that again, or we’re not going to get through an Agreement again.

Secretary Kissinger: Money—Thieu is not a Democrat. Their heart bleeds for the people that are dying there.

Mr. Habib: Who is behind the war? We are behind the war.

Secretary Kissinger: It’s tremendous humanity, but the people who are going to die if the Communists take over.

Mr. Habib: And we’re not trying for a political solution. But how are we going to get the money if we have no basis for defending it?

Mr. Vest: Sir, General Jones, Chief of the Air Force, brought Senator Nunn back from that trip.5 I talked to him the other day. And he said a lot of people might make a lot of difference in it.

Mr. Habib: Please don’t dismiss it. Let me talk to you some more about it.

Secretary Kissinger: All right. Let me talk to the President about it. But there’s kind of a sickening debate going on about it because we’re not talking about American lives; we’re talking about American honor. And we’re talking about a few hundred million dollars given to people who we have made ironclad promises to so they could get American aid and where all the proponents of the war, through 1972, always said, without exception, however far on the opposition they were, they always took the view they were opposed to American lives being spent; and if we would stop sacrificing American lives, they would see to it that sufficient aid was given.

Aid was never in dispute, even by the opponents.

Mr. Habib: Well, I suspect that the line you’re going to have to take when you submit yourself to questions by the Committees is that things [Page 616]have to be ironed out. And if we agree to the President’s putting together a group which they would agree to send, we could put together the kind of group—even if it doesn’t include the top leadership—which would be across the board. I would take an across-the-board group and let them go to both places. They have a recess coming up; let them go during the recess.

Secretary Kissinger: Let me talk to the President about it.

Mr. Maw: The atmosphere on the Hill is—

Mr. Habib: It’s terrible. I’ve talked to some of the people. They’re going to kill us if we don’t do something to turn it around.

Secretary Kissinger: It’s not a misinformation; it’s not a misapprehension. They know damn well what they’re doing.

Mr. Habib: Well then, we better make it very clear.

Secretary Kissinger: And if you watched television this morning, every program has—I mean that systematic campaign.

Mr. Habib: Well, today is the peak day. It’s been going on for several days on Viet-Nam, but I don’t consider it as anywhere near what I would hope it to be.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Vietnam.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Transcripts of Secretary of State Kissinger’s Staff Meetings, 1973–1977, Entry 5177, Box 6, Secretary’s Staff Meetings. Secret. Kissinger chaired the meeting, attended by all the principal officers including the assistant secretaries for the regional but not functional bureaus of the Department or their designated alternates.
  2. See Document 168.
  3. Not found.
  4. Kissinger was in Europe and Martinique December 12–16.
  5. Senator Nunn visited Vietnam in early 1975. For his report and related proposals, see Vietnam Aid—The Painful Options: Report of Senator Sam Nunn to the Committee on Armed Services, United States Senate. (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1975)