251. Memorandum of Conversation1
- President Ford
- Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
- Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
Kissinger: I said how can anyone vote against it. If it does some good, it will ease human suffering; it not it won’t be spent.
It wasn’t an unfriendly session, but basically it didn’t make any difference what I said.2 They must know I was right, but . . .
President: How do you analyze the Thieu speech?3
Kissinger: The longest version I saw was reasonable. He said he warned me in ‘72 that leaving North Vietnamese troops in the South was dangerous. He said we said we would cut off aid if they didn’t sign. Both of these are true, but to ask them to withdraw when the North had agreed not to reinforce or add equipment, would have been impossible. I don’t think Congress would have stood for continued fighting under these conditions.
President: I will get a question on did we force him out.4
Kissinger: Say no.
I would not get into details. I said a new government was not even formed. [Point out it happened in the evening and so nothing has happened since.]
Why give aid? The most humane solution requires as controlled a condition as possible. That requires a government with control and some self-confidence. The change of government already indicates a new situation. We should assist in this.
We are exploring with several parties. I wouldn’t want to say more in this sensitive situation.[Page 877]
We have reduced our numbers without panic. We are at the bare minimum now for essential functions, but we will continue to cut back as functions become superfluous.
We can’t blame the Soviet Union. This is not contradiction. We are talking two different things. The Soviet Union and the Chinese have to know when they introduce arms into dangerous areas they must assume the consequences. They know they would be used for aggressive purposes. But if we had done our part, the parties would have been balanced and the GVN wouldn’t have collapsed.
All our commitments are on the public record. It was always understood.
President Nixon’s correspondence is perfectly normal and reflects his intentions as President. Where they involve national commitments, they must go to the Congress.
[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Vietnam.]
North Vietnam has said that Thieu was the obstacle to a negotiation. If so, his departure should help . . .
DeGaulle turned his back on Algeria and was a hero.
- Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, Box 11, Chronological File. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in the Oval Office. All brackets except those indicating omitted material are in the original. According to the President’s Daily Diary, the meeting lasted from 6:41 to 7:21 p.m. (Ibid., Staff Secretary’s Office File)↩
- Kissinger testified that day before the House Appropriations Committee.↩
- See Document 246.↩
- Later that evening, at 10 p.m., President Ford held an interview with CBS television journalists. Vietnam was one of the first items raised; see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Gerald R. Ford, 1975, Book I, pp. 539–559.↩