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


Secretary Kissinger: Bob.

Mr. Ingersoll: Henry, I understand the WSAG meeting has been postponed. The difficulty on Cambodia is that we cannot—Passman cannot get the votes to get this out of the subcommittee.

Secretary Kissinger: What has one got to do with the other?

Mr. Ingersoll: Well, we were going to delay any action on Cambodia, waiting for the WSAG meeting. But I think we are going to have to do something today, to see if we can move this somewhat.

Secretary Kissinger: And besides, we promised the New York Times and the Washington Post that there is a WSAG meeting today. So we cannot postpone it. What happens to these WSAG papers? Are they shopped around town, so when they come into the meeting everyone present has already worked out his position with everyone else?

Mr. Ingersoll: I have no idea.

Mr. Sisco: If it is an options paper, as in the case of the Ethiopian paper, it was worked out at the bureau level, with their counterparts in Defense, as an options paper, not as a recommendation paper—that is correct. In other words, there are a number of people in other agencies, Henry, that would know about that kind of a paper.

Secretary Kissinger: What’s the point of the WSAG meeting, then? What happens there that has not already happened previously?

Mr. Sisco: The paper is an options paper. There is no decision that has been taken.

Secretary Kissinger: What’s the problem? Why can’t we wait 24 hours to have a WSAG meeting?

Mr. Ingersoll: We can. We think some action has to be taken just in timing, that is all.

Secretary Kissinger: As far as I understand, Passman isn’t going to mark up until next Tuesday,2 until he gets back that Congressman whom we so brilliantly took away from him.

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Mr. Maw: He says he cannot do it. This is the story we got last night from John Murphy.

Secretary Kissinger: Who is John Murphy?

Mr. Ingersoll: Deputy Administrator of AID.

Mr. Maw: I would like a separate count on the committee. I cannot believe that there are not enough members of that committee to put this thing through.

Secretary Kissinger: Passman is praying that Cambodia will fall before next Tuesday.

Mr. Maw: Well, he says now he is not going to mark up until he is certain he can get the votes.

Secretary Kissinger: Let’s do this thing in stages, because my mind cannot encompass all the subtleties of your congressional strategy. What is it that makes it impossible for us to delay the WSAG for 24 hours? What great decision would have been taken at the WSAG?

Mr. Ingersoll: Nothing.

Secretary Kissinger: Can I get a hint?

Mr. Ingersoll: We were going to delay any action until the WSAG meeting. But now—

Secretary Kissinger: All right. Now I have delayed the WSAG meeting. But what action are you delaying until the WSAG meeting?

Mr. Ingersoll: Whether or not you continue to push for the $222 million or go for lifting the ceiling.

Secretary Kissinger: That is not an appropriate subject for WSAG, anyway. WSAG is supposed to deal with policy, not with congressional strategy. But at any rate, what difference does it make, since there is no mark-up until we—

Mr. Ingersoll: I didn’t realize it had been postponed that long.

Secretary Kissinger: Yes. He wants Chappell back.

Mr. Maw: He has a proxy from Chappell, so we are told.

Secretary Kissinger: Well, what is the suggestion? We don’t need a WSAG meeting to determine whether to lift the ceiling or to go for the full amount.

Mr. Ingersoll: Well, that is all I was raising, to see whether or not you wanted to suggest that we go for just raising the ceiling or for the full amount.

Secretary Kissinger: We have already asked for raising the ceiling. The President—

Mr. Maw: That has not gone up to the hill.

Mr. McCloskey: That did not go up.

Secretary Kissinger: Why is that?

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Mr. Maw: Once you say we don’t want any money, just raise the ceiling, we will never get any money.

Secretary Kissinger: You thought the President—

Mr. Maw: He didn’t send it up in time. If it had gone up two weeks ago, it would have been timely. Now if we send it up as a compromise for more money, we won’t get any money. That is our problem today.

Secretary Kissinger: Yes. But why didn’t it go up when we approved it?

Mr. Maw: I don’t know. It just didn’t get signed and didn’t get up.

Secretary Kissinger: That is when I was going on my last trip.

Mr. Maw: That is right. It just sat there.

Secretary Kissinger: There were three separate conversations.

Mr. Maw: Three weeks ago. We couldn’t dislodge it, and it didn’t get signed until—

Secretary Kissinger: What do you mean, you couldn’t dislodge it?

Mr. Maw: Our telephone calls to the White House did no good.

Secretary Kissinger: You should have told me. I can dislodge it in two hours.

Mr. Maw: We should have.

Secretary Kissinger: There is no sense horsing around with those incompetents. When a thing is stuck, you have to tell Brent or me.

Mr. Maw: I did tell Brent, and Brent couldn’t get it out of the President. It was on his desk. The fact is it sat there for two-and-a-half weeks without—

Secretary Kissinger: Yes. But the President didn’t care. He would have signed it. There must have been some slip-up. He agreed to it. So what is the question?

Mr. Maw: The question is now whether we go for simply a raising of ceiling or—

Secretary Kissinger: My experience on Vietnam matters has been that you buy absolutely nothing by compromise, until they are already—if at the last minute they want to knock off $50 million, you can do it. But if you begin now and offer them compromises, you will get nothing.

Mr. Maw: That is exactly what happens.

Secretary Kissinger: That has been my experience in five years. At the very last minute, if they are already lined up, if one of them wants a face-saver, you can do it.

Mr. Maw: I think we ought to go up and take our own reading of the committee and not rely on others. Bob and I have to go up and talk to Passman today.

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Secretary Kissinger: Well, I want to make sure that all contacts are known by McCloskey.

Mr. Maw: The President supposedly has talked to three Republican members of the subcommittee and was turned down by all three.

Secretary Kissinger: He talked to—who is that fellow from Pennsylvania—Coughlin?

Mr. Ingersoll: Conte.

Secretary Kissinger: Conte is from Massachusetts. He talked to Conte. He talked to Larry Coughlin.

Mr. Ingersoll: Shriver.

Secretary Kissinger: Well, he talked to him yesterday. He seemed to know him, and he seemed to get him on the phone. Coughlin.

Mr. McCloskey: One of the reasons that that piece of paper the President ultimately signed did not go up was that he was persuaded to call Conte, who imposed the ceilings on the Cambodian assistance.

Mr. Maw: And DOD got in the act and opposed it going up early, and consented to it going up when it was too late.

Secretary Kissinger: Yes. But I have to know these things, because then we can blast them loose. I was sort of torn about it. Now I think it is ridiculous. The issue isn’t for these people the amount of money. It is a national disgrace not to send ammunition to allies that are beseiged. It is unbelievable.

Mr. Ingersoll: They may not survive anyway. But at least—

Secretary Kissinger: That is a different thing, if they don’t survive. But to make a country collapse because you won’t send ammunition to it is a national disgrace. Then if you send the ammunition and they collapse, it is at least a different problem. All the people who opposed Cambodia in 1970 won’t rest.

Mr. Ingersoll: I think that is what they were talking about yesterday morning. The mail is just flooding them right now.

Secretary Kissinger: That is these pressure groups. That doesn’t protect you three years from now when the consequences are there. What is anyone in that area going to think when the United States won’t send in ammunition to a country with which it has been associated? They can understand a country losing a war. But this is almost incomprehensible. That is a disgrace.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Cambodia.]

  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; Nodis. Kissinger chaired the meeting, which was 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. March 4.