1. Memorandum From President Nixon to the White House Chief of Staff (Haldeman)1
In talking to Kissinger, Colson, et al with regard to the Vietnam peace settlement2 some of the following points should be borne in mind:
1. When Henry goes down to the Capitol3 he must at all costs give no quarter whatever to the doves and to tilt his remarks wherever he must tilt them on the side of those who have stood with us rather than trying to pander to those who have always opposed us.
2. This means that not only there but in everything that all of our surrogates and other spokesmen do over these next few days and weeks we must emphasize these points:
A. This was a peace with honor which achieved the major goals for which the war was waged.
B. We were able to get a settlement that under no stretch of the imagination can possibly be described as a coalition government and [Page 2] one that assures the right of the people of South Vietnam to determine their future without having a Communist government imposed upon them, directly or indirectly.
C. The settlement we achieved, rather than being a bug-out which might have ended the war for us, is one that ends the war for the 50 million people of Indochina. This is a fundamental point that has not adequately been brought out except in the line that I wrote into my speech on it at the last moment.4 The difference between the Senate and House doves’ position of POWs for withdrawal and the peace we finally got is very simply that the prisoners for withdrawal proposal would have meant that the United States would get out and let the war go ahead. In other words, it would end the war for us and have the war continue for those that remained with 1,000 casualties a week at least ad infinitum. What we have done by sticking in there was to get a peace which ends the war for the long-suffering people of South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos as well.
D. Henry must be prepared to point out how the settlement has been improved from October and also why it was not possible to settle in December. It is obvious that our critics are already beginning to pick up the line with some assist from Hanoi that we could have had the same settlement we eventually achieved in October or in December when the talks broke down. We all know this is totally untrue but the point must be made simply and directly without too much detail.
E. Henry must flatly indicate, whenever he gets the opportunity, that the resolutions passed by the House and Senate caucuses over the years we were negotiating and by the full Senate from time to time prolonged the war, and only by the strong action that we took in December were we able to convince the enemy that the enemy should settle and not take the risk of waiting for the Congress to give them even more than they were willing to settle for with us.
In essence, the simple points must be made that our opponents in the Congress and in the media wanted to end the war in Vietnam with [Page 3] dishonor and what amounted really to an abject surrender and defeat for the United States. We persisted in seeing it through until the war was ended with honor. Our opponents would have ended the war in a way that would have led at the very least to a Communist coalition government for South Vietnam or a totally Communist government for South Vietnam. We have ended in a way that assures the people of South Vietnam the right to determine their own future in free, internationally supervised elections, which means that there will be no Communist government unless the people want it and this is something that no one anticipates will really happen. And finally, our opponents with all their talk about peace were only interested in getting peace for America and would have ended our involvement in a way that would have allowed the war to continue indefinitely for the long-suffering people of Indochina. In other words, peace with honor means peace with independence for South Vietnam and peace for the people of Southeast Asia. Peace with surrender and dishonor means peace for us but a Communist government for South Vietnam and continued war for the 50 million people of Indochina.
It is imperative that Henry particularly make these points strongly and vigorously when he is before the Congress in his opening statement without going into any detail. I would suggest the opening statement be perhaps no more than 10 minutes and then field questions. He will without question enormously impress the Congress as he has the press with his performance. He must remember that rather than impressing the Congress we want to leave three or four simple, hard messages for them that they can understand and that they, we hope, will go out and peddle to others.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Staff Member and Office Files, White House Special Files, President’s Personal Files, Memoranda From the President, 1969–1974, Box 4, Memos—January 1973. No classification marking. Printed from an uninitialed copy.↩
- On January 23, Nixon announced that the United States and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam had negotiated an end to the Vietnam war. For the text of Nixon’s televised remarks, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1973, pp. 18–20.↩
- Haldeman requested that Kissinger brief the House and Senate leadership prior to the January 27 ceremony in Paris when Rogers would sign the peace agreement for the United States. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume IX, Vietnam, October 1972–January 1973, Document 335. On January 26, Kissinger met with Senators from 1:30 until 2:35 p.m. and with Representatives from 3 until 4:20 p.m. The transcripts of these conversations are in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 317, Subject Files, Congressional Jan 1973–May 1973, Vol. 8. The text and accompanying protocols of the “Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam,” usually referred to as the Paris Peace Accords, are printed in Department of State Bulletin, February 12, 1973, pp. 169–188. For information on the January 27 signing ceremony, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume IX, Vietnam, October 1972–January 1973, Document 340.↩
- Nixon was referencing this sentence in his January 23 address: “Now that we have achieved an honorable agreement, let us be proud that America did not settle for a peace that would have betrayed our allies, that would have abandoned our prisoners of war, or that would have ended the war for us but would have continued the war for the 50 million people of Indochina.” (Public Papers: Nixon, 1973, p. 20) The President reiterated this point during his January 31 news conference, referencing his administration’s accomplishment of achieving peace with honor: “I know it gags some of you to write that phrase, but it is true, and most Americans realize it is true, because it would be peace with dishonor had we—what some have used, the vernacular—‘bugged out’ and allowed what the North Vietnamese wanted: the imposition of a Communist government or a coalition Communist government in the South Vietnamese. That goal they have failed to achieve. Consequently, we can speak of peace with honor and with some pride that it has been achieved.” (Ibid., p. 55)↩