156. Minutes of the Secretary of State’s Staff Meeting1 2

[Omitted here is material unrelated to drug policy.]

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Rodger, how about opium?

MR. DAVIES: Mr. Secretary, we have discussed the Turkish opium ban with Prime Minister Ecevit, several times with the Foreign Minister, with Ambassador Esenbel here, at three levels in the Department, and on Friday Congressmen Wolff and Rangel had an exchange in depth with Foreign Minister Gunes. Where we come out is the Turkish Government feels that it is almost impossible to change the traditional pattern of farmers, and that even if multilateral or U.S. aid on a much more generous basis were forthcoming, it would not meet their domestic political problem.

I met with AID on Friday, and where I come out is that we have two choices before us. We can push the option of standing our insistence that they maintain the ban. I think this will lead to a Turkish reluctant decision to go ahead, which could result in a congressional limitation on aid to Turkey. We would probably get some kind of waiver [Page 2] built in, as we did with the Greek limitation. Or conceivably, and this is way out, it could lead to a Turkish move to unseat Ecevit, through the process they used to get rid of Demirel some years back.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Which is what —killing him?

MR. DAVIES: There was the unseating by memorandum. They issued a memorandum of condition he would have to meet.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: In other words, he would be unseated for agreeing to what we want.

MR. DAVIES: For raising the risk of further reduction of U.S. military assistance, through congressional action.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: So they would unseat him in order to be able to acquiesce.

MR. DAVIES: In order to get a more complacent government in place. I don’t think that would resolve the problem. It would emerge again. The other possibility—

SECRETARY KISSINGER: I told you Ecevit was a student of mine.

MR. DAVIES: From his background, sir, he seems to be not a leftist, but an intelligent—(Laughter) He seems to me to be a fairly sound and reasonable individual and to recognize—

SECRETARY KISSINGER: You can stop at any [Page 3] point. (Laughter) You are deep enough as it is.

MR. DAVIES: He is making a plea for us to recognize their problem, and if they go back to production, to assist them in seeing that there is no illicit diversion.

I would recommend, and I will, sir, in my paper for you very shortly, that we play out our hand on the economic side, to the point where we see that we are not going to make it. And then I would recommend that we go in with an offer to assist the Turks in a pilot project for the derivation of morphine by the poppy straw process. The picture is complicated somewhat by—

SECRETARY KISSINGER: What is that poppy straw process? I mean in addition to the fact that it is always pleasant to tell farmers how to farm. What are we getting out of that?

MR. DAVIES: This would enable them to say that they had gone back into the opium production field. They would do it on controlled territory. Farmers would be brought in as day laborers, which would be a change in pattern. And the process involves removal of the whole plant, processing it in a roller system, with alkaloids, and derivation of morphine, without going through the gum opium extraction process.

Now, the complication, Mr. Secretary, is that [Page 4] we are planning to do the same thing in the United States. On the domestic side, there is to be an announcement, I am told, fairly shortly, that we are going to plant poppies in the United States and go ahead with—

MR. RUSH: Ours, though, bypasses heroin, doesn’t it? Ours is a different plant. It bypasses the heroin and goes directly to opium.

MR. DAVIES: Morphine.

MR. RUSH: To morphine. So it is a different kind of plant.

MR. INGERSOLL: No. It is just the process of harvesting.

MR. DAVIES: You can still derive heroin.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Are we using the straw poppy process—because don’t want us to demonstrate against allies. Are we using the straw poppy process for ourselves?

MR. DAVIES: It would be to derive the technology to demonstrate that you can do more—

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Why the hell do we care what process they use, as long as we have the means of controlling it?

MR. DAVIES: This is the easiest process to control, [Page 5] Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: I never heard of the straw poppy process. I plan to put it to good use at cocktail parties.

MR. DAVIES: In short, sir, I did ask Brent if it were possible to delay the announcement while we took a look at this. He feels that—


MR. DAVIES: General Scowcroft.

SECRETARY KISSING: What announcement is he making?

MR. DAVIES: The domestic side of the White House is to announce the process as an experiment in the United States. And I think—

SECRETARY KISSINGER: There are two separate problems. Are we willing to yield and let the Turks farm this thing, as long as we have assurances of strict control? I assume your recommendation is yes.

MR. DAVIES: Yes, sir.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Second, shall we insist that strict control—control means the straw poppy process.

MR. DAVIES: Yes, sir.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Or is it possible to control [Page 6] the traditional process. Right?

MR. DAVIES: Yes, sir.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: All right. Now, is it worth the effort of the United States Government to tell a bunch of Turkish farmers how to farm? It seems to me an extremely unpromising avenue.

MR. DAVIES: This would be the Commission on Narcotics and Drugs, sir, which has advocated—


MR. DAVIES: The international UN—the International Poppy Control Commission.

SECRETARY KISSINGER What is the Turkish attitude to be told how to farm?

MR. DAVIES. The Turks have said that they would consider this process as a means of insuring better control. It has emerged in conversations with Esenbel, and also with the Foreign Minister. So that I would like to recommend that we consider going back to the Turks and saying that a pilot project in Turkey, either at the same time that we launch ours or possibly even to replace ours might be the way to get back into production with maximum control over leakage.

We will put up these options for you, Mr. Secretary.

[Page 7]

SECRETARY KISSINGER: What is the option—yes or no?

MR. DAVIES: Continue on course and tell the Turks that we will not tolerate a reversal of our understanding, or continue to try to persuade them up to the point where it looks like we are on a confrontation course, and then to go back in with this alternate proposal.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: We have reached that point, haven’t we?

MR. DAVIES: In my judgment, we are very close to it. We will have a paper up in a day or two.

MR. BROWN: Isn’t there something funny in this? The political aim of the Turkish Government is to give employment to a lot of miscellaneous people who are on the margins of agricultural subsistence life, which means they are living in scattered places, in the poor parts of the country. And someone is saying they are going to build a commune and move these people to it. Where the hell has that ever worked?

MR. RUSH: That was the very point I made to Esenbel on Friday. His argument was shot through with contradictions. Namely, that economically these people just— economically it was bearing down heavily on them. [Page 8] The way they would do it is to have a compound under strict government supervision where the government exercised very careful control.

I told him you can either have what you say you are going to do, in which case the economic pressures are still on you as much as ever, or you go back to taking care of your economic problems, in which case the thing is completely out of hand. Moreover, as I pointed out to him, wherever we tried this sort of thing in our own country, under prohibition or otherwise, you get your police corrupted, you get corruption up and down the line, and it just doesn’t work, never has.

MR. DAVIES: Mr. Secretary, it does —

MR. RUSH: If we are going to do it ourselves, we cannot very well tell the Turks we trust ourselves and we don’t trust them.

MR. DAVIES: Exactly. That is why I think it would be—

SECRETARY KISSINGER: This way we can get the money—

MR. RUSH: That is right. His other point was, which I think was a good one, after all the Indians do it, and that is where you get your opium now, “We are as trustworthy as the Indians.”

[Page 9]

MR. INGERSOLL: Is there any way to delay this announcement on our domestic program, because this is going to hurt all our efforts in Thailand and Burma.

MR. DAVIES: General Scowcroft said he would seek to delay it. It was on the domestic side of the of the White House, however.

MR. RUSH: This is going to undercut our efforts all around the world.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Why don’t you let me see the memorandum.

MR. DAVIES: Mr. Rush—the fact of going back into production would satisfy the political problem with the intellectuals. I really think it is the urban problem of the Turkish intellectual elite, who feel that the Turkish Government not knuckle under pressure to the United States.

MR. RUSH: He dwelt on the political problem of the farmers.

[Omitted here is material unrelated to drug policy.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Transcripts of Secretary of State Kissinger’s Staff Meetings, 1973–1977, Entry 5177, Box 2, Secretary’s Regional Staff Meetings, 03/18/74. Secret.
  2. Secretary Kissinger considered further responses to the increasingly likely reintroduction of poppy growing in Turkey.