142. Transcript of the Secretary of State’s Staff Meeting1

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Chile.]

Mr. Kubisch: Today’s Newsweek is carrying really the first reputable report about Allende’s death in Chile. Their correspondent there is reporting that something over 2700 politicals have been killed. The Government has acknowledged 284 deaths.

Secretary Kissinger: Executed or killed?

Mr. Kubisch: Just killed. There’s knowledge that there have been 284 deaths, but the Newsweek correspondent apparently bluffed his way into a morgue and found 2700 bodies.

Secretary Kissinger: But how do you get from 284 to 2700?

Mr. Kubisch: Because the daughter had told him that’s the story, that they had listed 250 corpses. That’s the basis for his story; he saw only 250 corpses himself.

More may come out in coming days. We really don’t know; our Embassy hasn’t been able to confirm it. We recommend caution.

Secretary Kissinger: “Caution” in what way?

Mr. Kubisch: Caution in not trying to get ourselves too closely identified that the regime there in Chile is not as bad as people say.

As I say, we don’t want to get into the position of defending what they have or haven’t done.

Secretary Kissinger: But we don’t also want to get into the position of explaining horror.

[Page 391]

Mr. Kubisch: No; on the contrary. We are continuing to fulfill our commitments to the Government with foodstuffs, medicine, and so on.

For example, in some of these Congressional hearings, I’ve been asked: “How many people have been killed? Is it true, the rumors we hear?” And I just have to say: “We don’t know. We don’t have substantiated facts. We can tell you what the Government has announced.”

Secretary Kissinger: Yes. I agree that we should not knock down stories that later prove to be true, nor should we be in the position of defending what they’re doing in Santiago. But I think we should understand our policy—that however unpleasant they act, the Government is better for us than Allende was.

So we shouldn’t support moves against them by seemingly disassociating, and we certainly shouldn’t defend them with more internal repression that we should stay out of.

Is it going to come up at the UN?

Mr. Kubisch: I don’t think so. You know, the Cubans raised this, at one point, in the Security Council.

Secretary Kissinger: Then it was going to come up again?

Mr. Kubisch: There was a possibility that it would come up again, but the later word that I’ve seen is there’s not wide support for it being reopened. I don’t know.

Mr. Sisco: Not as a formal agenda item.

I do know, Mr. Secretary—as expected in these informal debates—some people make reference to that in these debates. But other than that I don’t know.

Secretary Kissinger: No. Joe, do you have anything else on this?

Mr. Sisco: No, sir.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Chile.]

  1. Summary: Kissinger and Kubisch discussed the human rights situation in Chile during the Secretary’s Staff meeting.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Transcripts of Kissinger Staff Meetings, Entry 5177, Lot 78D443, Box 1, Secretary’s Staff Meetings. Secret; Nodis. Kissinger chaired the meeting, which was attended by all the principal officers of the Department or their designated alternates. A “Summary of Decisions” of the staff meeting, October 4, noted “so far as the new government of Chile is concerned, we should not support moves against them by seeming to disassociate ourselves from the Chileans and on the other hand should not be in a position of defending what they are doing in Santiago.” (Digital National Security Archive, Item No. CL00881) In telegram 195002 to Santiago, October 1, the Department forwarded the text of the Newsweek article to the Embassy. (Ibid., Central Foreign Policy File, [no film number]) On October 2, a U.S. consul who had visited the morgue confirmed that the facility held approximately 150–175 bodies and that most of the dead had apparently been shot. However, he also reported that the wounds of the dead varied considerably and that he had not noticed any bodies bearing gunshot wounds under the chin, as reported in the Newsweek article. A U.S. citizen who visited the morgue with the consul and examined all of the bodies reportedly “never commented on likelihood they result of mass execution.” (Telegram 4766 from Santiago, October 2; ibid.)