177. Transcript of the Secretary of State’s Regional Staff Meeting1

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Chile.]

Mr. Rogers: On Chile, as you know, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed unanimously a Kennedy ban on arms assistance.

Secretary Kissinger: I think it’s a disaster.

Mr. Rogers: Well, I said as much to Kennedy. He’s unimpressed. There’s a memorandum of my conversation with him. I sent the letter.

Secretary Kissinger: We won’t rest until we have left wing governments in power everywhere. It’s too dangerous for military people. If they were like Peru, they’d have no trouble.

Mr. Rogers: Is that a left wing government?

Secretary Kissinger: Well, whatever it is. It’s, at least, anti-American.

Mr. Rogers: Anti-American, anti-free press. They control all newspapers.

It passed unanimously and was put up to the committee by Humphrey. And I gather that, in general—

Secretary Kissinger: Is that one of those things you guys sneaked by me on the Foreign Aid bill?

Mr. Ingersoll: No. We talked—

Mr. Maw: Kennedy got ahold of Humphrey the night before the meeting and said he would oppose the bill on the floor unless Humphrey put this in. Humphrey put this in the bill without telling us what he was doing at all.

[Page 474]

Now, there is a chance of making a compromise in the Conference Committee, because the House bill does permit a waiver for a MAP up to 10 million dollars—and that includes training.

Secretary Kissinger: Oh, come on! Ten million dollars—when the Cubans are putting instructors and the Soviets are putting tanks into Peru?

Mr. Maw: It isn’t on the merits. The whole thing is on this silly human rights question and the publicity on it. Kennedy has the ball and is going to try to run with it.

Secretary Kissinger: If we don’t stand with what our interest is, and if every time we get tackled we get compromised or call something a compromise, that’s the same as yielding and we’re in deep trouble.

What are the options going to be for Chile to overthrow the military—to bring a government in that’s going to be extremely hostile for us, in all probability?

I don’t know what the options are or for the military to become more non-aligned and get their arms from the non-aligned. What else is going to happen? You don’t expect a military government to be without arms.

Mr. Maw: These people aren’t concerned about that; they’re only concerned about—

Secretary Kissinger: But we’re concerned about it.

Mr. Maw: Yes. And, unfortunately, they’ve got the votes to get us in trouble on this human rights issue. And if we can square that away—

Secretary Kissinger: Oh, come on—if we can square away the human rights! How are you going to square the human rights issue with Don Fraser? He’s going to come out and redouble his efforts for human values.

I’ll see him, but I’ll guarantee that’s going to be the outcome.

Mr. Maw: What is the answer?

Secretary Kissinger: How are we going to square away the human rights issue?

Mr. Maw: The only way is to make a good statement, letting it get published.

Secretary Kissinger: Out of the question. I don’t yield to this sort of nonsense. That won’t do it. I’ll meet with Don Fraser.

Mr. Holton: Do you want to try with Kennedy? He wants to see you too.

Secretary Kissinger: On what?

Mr. Holton: He wants to talk about his trip and compare notes with you.

Secretary Kissinger: Kennedy I’d be glad to see. I have good relations with him. With Kennedy there’s a chance of getting something.

[Page 475]

Mr. Holton: He would like to see you this week.

Secretary Kissinger: Alone?

Mr. Holton: Yes.

Secretary Kissinger: Without talking to him.

Mr. Holton: Do you want to do it?

Secretary Kissinger: Kennedy I’ll see. You keep it out of the newspapers.

Mr. Holton: I won’t put it in the Post first thing in the morning.

Secretary Kissinger: I’ll see Kennedy.

Mr. Ingersoll: Maybe you can swing him around.

Secretary Kissinger: On Chile I can’t swing him around. We have to fight a general battle, which we do not open by this self-serving human rights attitude. And I don’t want to hear that in a large group anyway. I’ve told you people a hundred times. Our record on human rights is very good, but I won’t play that sort of self-serving game by publishing a document. I absolutely will not do it.

We’ve got more people out of more countries than almost anybody else, but I am not going to play that game. But I want us to stand for what is in the national interest—

Mr. Maw: Of course.

Secretary Kissinger: —and not go running around for compromises every time.

Somebody has to take these things on. They are going to cripple any foreign policy we have. I’ve been telling you people for years what was going to happen on Ethiopia, and you cannot have military governments that you don’t give arms to. They’re going to get it sooner or later from somebody else.

From the minute they were closing the base in Ethiopia, I predicted what was going to happen.

Mr. Ingersoll: Humphrey didn’t tell us about putting this thing in. We had no idea until the morning of the Senate Foreign—

Secretary Kissinger: Well, I had no idea until after the staff meeting. It wasn’t told to me yesterday.

Mr. Ingersoll: I thought we talked about it yesterday afternoon.

Secretary Kissinger: It wasn’t clear to me. Ten million aid is clearly an insult.

Mr. Rogers: That’s a complete ban—outward.

Secretary Kissinger: Well, what’s ten million?

Mr. Rogers: Ten million—what Carl was trying to suggest—was in the House bill, as a possible compromise.

[Page 476]

Secretary Kissinger: Gentlemen, what kind of a goddam compromise is 10 million dollars to a country whose neighbor is getting large amounts of tanks and in which it’s scared out of its mind? It’s nothing.

Mr. Maw: There’s nothing in the House bill and there’s nothing in the Senate bill.

Secretary Kissinger: But don’t tell me we won’t salvage anything. The difference between 10 million and nothing is nothing. Somebody has to say what the consequences are, and that is not simply a human rights issue.

Mr. Maw: Yes, sir.

Secretary Kissinger: Also, I’d like to know whether the human rights problem in Chile is that much worse than in other countries in Latin America or whether their primary crime is to have replaced Allende and whether people are now getting penalized, having gotten rid of an anti-American government. Is it worse than in other Latin American countries?

Mr. Rogers: Yes.

Secretary Kissinger: Well, I think the consequences could be very serious, if we cut them off from military aid.

Mr. Rogers: There’s no question about it, but the difference between what we—

Secretary Kissinger: Well, I think it’s a helluva lot more important on how we vote ourselves.

Mr. Rogers: It really, I think, raises a serious proposition with Congress because the great majority of the members of Congress feel very strongly about it, rightly or wrongly.

Secretary Kissinger: That may very well be.

Mr. Rogers: They’ll go to the mat on the issue.

Secretary Kissinger: They’ll what?

Mr. Rogers: They’ll go to the mat on the issue—as you’ll hear from what Teddy [Kennedy] was talking about.

Secretary Kissinger: It may well be. And Teddy knows when we have a Castro-like government in Chile. What are we going to say—the State Department wanted to compromise between 10 million?

Mr. Rogers: No, no.

Mr. Ingersoll: No, no. We don’t have any other alternative, unless we fight it on the floor.

Secretary Kissinger: It makes no great difference to me whether we get nothing or 10 million. What is the benefit? And, you know, we won’t get 10 million either.

Mr. Maw: Unless we can beat the Senate thing on the floor, we’re in real trouble.

[Page 477]

Secretary Kissinger: But we’ve got to get a better progressional system where we’ve got people lined up to fight on this. There must be other people lined up to fight besides myself personally, and it can’t be that we get hit time and again and nobody is there to support what’s right. And no one is against human rights. This is an issue of balancing the overall interests of the country.

Mr. Rogers: Miki wasn’t standing up on this issue.

Secretary Kissinger: Were we standing up on the issue is the question.

Mr. Maw: We weren’t even consulted. We got it out in a staff report, in the staff level. We got them to agree to take all—to eliminate—

Mr. Rogers: Restrictions.

Mr. Maw: —restrictions.

Secretary Kissinger: Well, am I wrong that this sort of thing is likely to finish off that government?

Mr. Rogers: Yes; I think that’s true.

Secretary Kissinger: All right. What’s going to happen after that? Does anyone know?

Mr. Rogers: If they don’t get the arms?

Secretary Kissinger: No. What will happen if that government collapses?

Mr. Rogers: There are two possibilities. One of them is that you could have a reversion to the Christian Democrats. You know, this government is now in the process of severing its relationship with the Christian Democratic Party.

Secretary Kissinger: I don’t think they should vote with us in the OAS or the UN, and I think it’s better than the Allende Government.

Mr. Rogers: Well, I agree.

Secretary Kissinger: And if the army winds up totally demoralized, that will affect amongst those out of office the whole future of politics. If it becomes clear that the army can ever move again, the left will become immeasurably strengthened; am I wrong?

Mr. Rogers: That’s true. The question is which part of the left—the Christian Democratic Party or the Socialist members of the Popular Front. The base of that government is not—

Secretary Kissinger: I have no use for that government.

Mr. Rogers: The major concern of that government and the cause of its erosion right now is the threat from Peru. They would be considerably less disturbed about the question of arms supplies from the United States if the Peruvian threat didn’t exist.

Secretary Kissinger: The fact is that throughout the Allende Government it was an article of faith that military supplies to Chile should [Page 478]be continued. There was never any effort to stop it, even when they were expropriating us. When human rights were strengthened under the Allende Government, there was never any move to stop it. The worst crime of this government is that it’s pro-American in the eyes of many of these supporters, of these cut-offs.

Is this government worse than the Allende Government? Is human rights more severely threatened by this government than Allende?

Mr. Rogers: Well, I can’t say that, Mr. Secretary. In terms of freedom of association, Allende didn’t close down the opposition party. In terms of freedom of the press, Allende didn’t close down all the newspapers.

Now, in terms of human rights, the effectiveness of the criminal process, there you have an argument. There was arbitrary arrest and torture.

Secretary Kissinger: The fact is there was no challenge to the pipeline. There was no challenge to the military supplies, toward Chile, during that whole period.

Mr. Rogers: Well, it’s true. In fact, the present proposal is an implementation of a commitment or proposition that we put to the Chileans, to the military, during the Allende Administration.

Secretary Kissinger: Whom are we going to win in Latin America by that sort of a policy? Who is going to be more for us than before? Do we cut off military aid to Chile, and how many of our people are really egging Kennedy on.

Mr. Rogers: I’m sorry?

Secretary Kissinger: How many State Department people are egging him on.

Mr. Rogers: Preparing to take him on?

Secretary Kissinger: Egging him on.

Mr. Rogers: I don’t know of anyone prepared to take him on.

Secretary Kissinger: I wouldn’t want to take a secret ballot in ARA.

Mr. Rogers: Well, I’m not sure he needs any egging on from ARA.

Secretary Kissinger: Well, I think it’s a disaster. It’s going to be useless to Chile.

Mr. Rogers: Yes. I wrote a couple of answers on it.

Secretary Kissinger: I’ll talk to Teddy for old times sake. But let my office arrange it.

Mr. Holton: I’ll go into it.

Secretary Kissinger: I’ll go into it. It’s useless; I’ll talk to him about his trip.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Chile.]

  1. Summary: Kissinger, Rogers, and Maw discussed congressional attempts to cut off military assistance to Chile and the potential impact the cut off would have on the military government in Chile.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Transcripts of Kissinger Staff Meetings, Lot 78D443, Box 5, Secretary’s Staff Meetings. Secret. Kissinger chaired the meeting, which was attended by all the principal officers of the Department or their designated alternates. In a meeting with Ford on the same day, Kissinger, in outlining administration strategy to prevent Congress from cutting FMS, stated, “I think our strategic position has to be to go to the people against the Congress. I will go to the people too and talk about the Executive–Legislative relationship. In the name of human rights, they [Congress] will undermine national security.” (Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, Box 6, December 3, 1974, Ford, Kissinger) In a December 4 memorandum to Kissinger, Rogers suggested that he inform Kennedy that terminating military assistance would lessen the U.S. Government’s leverage with the junta, and that Peru might perceive termination of assistance as a “green light” to invade Chile. (National Archives, RG 59, ARA Files, Subject and Country Files: Lot 81D324, DEF 12–5 CHILE, Military Sales 1974–75)