288. Memorandum of Conversation1
- President Ford
- Vice President Rockefeller
- Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
- George Bush, Director, Central Intelligence Agency
- William P. Clements, Jr., Deputy Secretary of Defense
- Brent Scowcroft, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
Kissinger: They [Meloy and Waring] may have been killed.2 They have three bodies but it will be an hour or so before they are identified.
[The President looks at the map of Beirut.]3
They were on their way to a visit with Sarkis to talk about the Arab force.
President: Who gave us the word?
Kissinger/Bush: It was a member of the ICRC.
President: Have we gotten any messages back?
Kissinger: Not yet. We sent messages to the Soviets, British, France, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Jordan4 that he had been kidnapped and how seriously we take it.
Our estimate is it was done by a rejectionist group, with the motivation perhaps to provoke a violent American reaction which would unify all the Arabs.
We have Dean Brown standing by to go there, because there isn’t a cool head there now.
Clements: But we have to remember that even the organized units are out of control and every SOB has a machine gun.
Kissinger: That reinforces my point.
President: What is your appraisal, Nelson?
Vice President: There is a domestic side. Reagan could jump on this and demand that you take strong action.
Internationally, if this could be used as a vehicle to get the Egyptians behind the Syrians to clean up the mess . . . Strong Arab action could get the President off the hook.
Kissinger: I don’t think there is anything we can do to get Egypt to give Syria a free hand, and to suggest it may be counterproductive.
Vice President: Ike went in in ’585 and it was successful.[Page 1034]
President: What assets do we have there?
Clements: [Described the task forces.] But I think intervention would be a mistake.
[Discussion of the possible methods of evacuation—by aircraft, by sea, or by road to Damascus—and the pros and cons of evacuation.]
President: Regardless of the political consequences, there are several actions to consider:
(1) Have a civilian ship available.
(2) Ease our ships in closer. I recognize the concern.
Vice President: The President has to show he is doing something. If we could get the Egyptians to take strong action . . .
Kissinger: We should issue a statement, saying that our best information is this was done by a small group of terrorists. This is a disgusting, reprehensible act. You should say: I call on all parties to condemn this act and to cooperate to bring the perpetrators to justice.6
- Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, Box 19, June 16, 1976, Ford, Rockefeller, Kissinger, Bush, William Clements. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in the Oval Office at the White House. Brackets are in the original.↩
- Ambassador to Lebanon Francis Meloy, Jr.; Robert Waring, the Embassy’s Economic Counselor; and their driver were kidnapped on June 16 and found shot to death that day. Ambassador Meloy had been appointed on May 1, succeeding G. McMurtrie Godley, who had left post on January 13.↩
- The map of Beirut is not attached.↩
- All messages were sent on June 16. The message to Egypt is in telegram 148551 to Cairo (National Archives, Central Foreign Policy Files, RG 59, D760232–0689); to Syria in telegram 148553 from State (Ibid., D760232–0688); to Saudi Arabia in telegram 148554 to Jidda (Ibid., D760232–0691); and to France and the United Kingdom in telegram 148654 to Paris and London (Ibid., D760232–0834).↩
- On July 15, 1958, President Eisenhower authorized U.S. troops to enter Lebanon in response to Lebanese President Camille Chamoun’s call for help. Chamoun’s government was under pressure from internal opposition and the United Arab Republic, and Chamoun wanted U.S. forces to protect his government. U.S. troops remained in Lebanon until October 25.↩
- President Ford made a statement on the assassinations at 4:05 p.m. on June 16. The next day, the White House announced that the President had designated Ambassador Brown as his Personal Representative to go to Damascus and accompany Meloy’s and Waring’s bodies to the United Sates. (Public Papers: Ford, 1976–77, Book II, pp. 1885–1886)↩