194. Memorandum From the Chairman of the Interdepartmental Coordinating Group (McClintock) to the Under Secretary of State (Richardson)1


  • Principal Themes Developed by Symington Subcommittee

On the basis of the first week of the Symington hearings on the Philippines (which apparently will terminate today with the closed interrogation of the NSA witness), the main thrust of the Committee’s inquiry2 seems fairly evident.

[Page 414]

A major theme will be to try to make a case that past Administrations, and by inference the present Administration, have undertaken commitments to foreign governments far in excess of the basic defense agreements which were ratified with the advice and consent of the Senate. A case in point is the communiqué issued by the White House on October 6, 1964, following talks between President Johnson and the then Philippine President Macapagal, which stated:

“They reviewed, in this connection, the importance of the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the United States in maintaining the security of both countries, and reaffirmed their commitment to meet any threat that might arise against their security. President Johnson made it clear that, in accordance with these existing alliances and the deployment and dispositions thereunder, any armed attack against the Philippines would be regarded as an attack against the United States forces stationed there and against the United States and would instantly be repelled.”

A similar case occurred with Korea. In reply to a press conference question in Korea on February 23, 1966, Vice President Humphrey made the following statement:

“The United States Government and the people of the United States have a firm commitment to the defense of Korea. As long as there is one American soldier on the line of the border, the demarcation line, the whole and the entire power of the United States of America is committed to the security and defense of Korea.”

It seems to me that when eventually the Secretary or you are asked to testify before the Subcommittee on overall policy with regard to overseas commitments, the line to be taken is that we frankly recognize that the statements made by the last Administration were in fact in excess [Page 415]of our explicit treaty obligations. What the present Administration seeks to do is to go back to the letter of those agreements ratified with the advice and consent of the Senate. This has already been suggested by the Secretary’s speech in Canberra on August 8, and by you in your speech in New York on September 5.

Senator Symington is obsessed with the fear of imminent bankruptcy of the US. He is convinced that a major measure for cutting down government spending lies in the broad field of our overseas commitments, which would include the MAP program and bases. At this point, Senator Symington removes his fiscal hat and puts on his General’s cap. Another of his obsessions is the idea that overseas bases are no longer necessary because ICBM missiles and Polaris submarine rockets make the stationing of US conventional forces abroad no longer necessary. Senator Symington apparently has not thought through the implications of resorting to strategic nuclear war as the only alternative to the limited deployment of conventional forces in given circumstances. Without saying so, he comes close to the Dulles doctrine of massive retaliation.

All the Senators, but particularly Senator Fulbright, bore down heavily in the Philippine hearings on the theme: “Why do we pay so much and get so little?” They were indignant that the Philippine government refused to send even a civic action group to Viet Nam until the US had engaged itself to supply the equipment for three engineer battalions and to pay per diem for the officers and men who actually went to the Philippines. Senator Fulbright dealt at great length yesterday on what he regards as the exorbitant mercenary pay we agreed to give the Koreans for the two divisions now fighting Viet Nam. He referred a number of times to the “Brown letter,” which purportedly engages this government to pay for the Korean expeditionary force, and said its contents had been published in a Japanese newspaper.

The main theme of protest that our client states receive so much from the US and contribute practically nothing in return was made repeatedly in the case of the Philippines where “millions of dollars” had been poured into the country but even in a situation involving the SEATO Alliance, the government at Manila would not send even a token detachment unless backsheesh was paid in advance.

A kindred theme is corruption. To read the testimony of the Philippine hearings, one would think that a principal function of Clark Air Force Base is to subsidize illegally or otherwise the iniquitous City of Angeles, which is adjacent to the Base and whose inhabitants are anything [Page 416]but angels. Evidences of corruption of high officials going right up to the top of the Philippine government were freely disclosed by the Air Force OSI colonel who heads up a sort of export FBI operation at Clark Field. Senator Fulbright made the point that the presence of Clark Air Force Base was in fact an active incentive to theft and corruption. About the only amusing aspect of this part of the testimony was that DOD, which was late in getting in its written statement 24 hours in advance of the hearings, excused its tardiness on the plea that to provide the statement earlier might have endangered the Air Force colonel’s life. Senator Symington, tongue in cheeck, said he would write the Secretary of Defense, praising the colonel’s forthright testimony, but suggesting that in view of the danger to his life, he not return to the Philippines. We might keep this ploy in mind for certain other witnesses.…

I suggested to our military witnesses yesterday that, if they could find an opportunity, they should make a closely reasoned military rationale as to why certain of our bases in the Philippines are still to be regarded as assets and not as liabilities, as the testimony in the hearings might make them seem. However, neither General Gideon nor Admiral Kauffman had such an opportunity. I have, therefore, recommended to DOD that for future hearings in the prepared written testimony Defense include such rationale as to specific bases and military programs which may become subject to the Committee’s scrutiny.

Senator Fulbright indicated a clear intention to build up a case against the Department by piece-meal interrogation of subordinate witnesses before he took on the Secretary of State. For example, he tried repeatedly yesterday to pin down Mr. Wilson, our witness on the Philippines, as to what reappraisals of East Asian policy the Department would undertake and what in fact our new policy toward communist China might be. I think we can expect in future hearings that Senator Fulbright will continue to press the same tactic. The answer by the witness in all cases should be that questions of broad policy must be deferred until the Subcommittee meets with the Secretary of State. This might, however, not be easy for Ambassador Sullivan in the hearings on Laos, as he is a Deputy Assistant Secretary.

Senator Symington’s philosophy toward the Subcommittee’s hearings was summed up succinctly in his own words yesterday afternoon—“You give the Committee all the facts; we’ll draw the conclusions.”

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 398, Subject Files, Symington Subcommittee, Vol. I. Confidential. Drafted by Ambassador Robert McClintock (PM), who was designated by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs U. Alexis Johnson to represent the Department of State at meetings of a White House Working Group. President Nixon appointed this group to coordinate the testimony of all agencies of the Executive Branch before the Symington subcommittee. Copies were sent to Kissinger, BeLieu, French, U. Alexis Johnson, Torbert, Spiers, Green, Sullivan, and Moore.
  2. On September 22 the White House Working Group set up an Interdepartmental Coordinating Group, chaired by McClintock, to supervise testimony before the Subcommittee. In a November memorandum to Secretary of State Rogers, John D. Erlichman stated that McClintock “was given clear instructions at this meeting, as to the categories of materials that should not be given to the Subcommittee.” Erlichman added that it was explained to McClintock that “the President had directed that guidelines for these hearings be set by the White House rather than by each department.” McClintock was also advised that no witness was to give any indication “that the White House was supervising or issuing instructions.” (Ibid.) In a September 24 memorandum to Kenneth BeLieu at the White House (who was also a member of the Working Group), McClintock delineated eight types of material or information “which under no circumstances should be divulged to the Subcommittee,” including information on nuclear storage, military contingency plans, and privileged communications between Chiefs of State or government. McClintock continued that the “Working Group defined materials or information which can be provided the Committee in sanitized version in the following four categories: 1) Corruption and crimes against US personnel and property in the Philippines; 2) Programs directed toward counter-insurgency matters; 3) Air defense arrangements between US and P.I.; 4) Negotiations for PHILCAGV.” Finally, McClintock noted that “a large amount of data” had already been provided to the Subcommittee, including international commitments, U.S. military facilities, forces, and missions in the Philippines, the Military Assistance Program and DOD and AID programs for counterinsurgency for the Philippines, joint military planning, and the Philippine contribution to the war effort in Vietnam, particularly PHILCAGV. (Ibid.)