38. Memorandum From Jessica Tuchman of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Human Rights

I. Major Actions So Far and How They have been Decided

1. Repeal of the Byrd Amendment2—This decision was formally reached in PRM–4,3 enjoyed unanimous interagency support, was well

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lobbied on the Hill (with a particularly crucial effort by Andy Young) and was successfully achieved well ahead of schedule.

2. UN Speech—This was an NSC initiative. The human rights language including the specific proposals was entirely drafted here by Tuchman and later approved by State. It is worth noting that in State’s original draft of this speech there were no human rights initiatives, and very little attention paid to the issue at all.4

3. International Treaties—The proposal to sign and seek ratification of the four international treaties was suggested by me in a memorandum to you on January 24th,5 and soon thereafter urged by Andy Young in his first meeting with the President after the Inaugural.6 The President delegated responsibility on this to Lipshutz who has held several State/Justice/NSC meetings to decide on a course of action. Several weeks ago, State and Justice lawyers reached agreement on language for reservations, but there is disagreement between Lipshutz and the agencies on whether to use one general reservation (“subject to the laws and Constitution of the United States”) or whether to take the more usual diplomatic course of specific reservations.7 Mondale is apparently now involved in discussions with Congress on which approach would be preferable politically, and a final decision is still pending. However, the substantive work is done, and these treaties could go forward to the Hill within a few days of a final decision.

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Within the last few weeks, Bob Pastor was responsible for the initiative in adding the Inter-American Treaty to the original four and this has been announced as policy in the OAS speech.8 Work is now proceeding on the specific reservations required.

4. Security Assistance—The issue of cuts in security assistance because of human rights violations came up during the early budget review. Within the State Department cuts were considered for such major violators as Indonesia, Iran, South Korea, and a few African nations. However, the formal department position recommended cuts only for Uruguay (which Congress had already cut by law) Argentina, and a small cut for Ethiopia.9 OMB favored additional cuts, and you and the President were involved in the decision not to propose additional cuts, both because of a disinclination to shoot from the hip, and because this Administration had not yet protested human rights violations to any of the other governments.

Pursuant to other requirements of the same law, country-by-country reports on the human rights status in 82 nations have been prepared and submitted to Congress.10 Both the preparation (which is done largely through Embassy channels) and publication of these reports has caused substantial consternation and resentment in many of the violating nations. They object to US unilateral judgments on their behavior.

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5. Economic Assistance—No cuts were proposed in development assistance for FY ’77 because of human rights violations. Christopher testified on this issue in the Senate.11 There has been little controversy.

6. Sakharov Letter and White House Meeting with Bukovsky—You are better informed on this than I, my impression is that these decisions were made entirely within the White House.12

7. UN Human Rights Commission Meeting in Geneva—The US delegation was headed by Allard Lowenstein. I don’t know who was responsible for his appointment, but it was a good one, notwithstanding Brady Tyson’s remarks on Chile (Lowenstein did not see or approve Tyson’s remarks).13 Lowenstein took the unusual course of not assuming at the beginning that our efforts would be doomed to failure, and succeeded remarkably well in energizing the meeting and changing its tone. There were two votes on which even such traditional clients as Cuba and Syria refused to support the Soviet position limiting human rights investigations. Lowenstein has real potential in this area. He is completely unfettered by the pervasive defeatist attitude at State and is both deeply committed and realistic. His talents should be made use of.

8. Planning for ECOSOC and the 1977 UNGA—So far only State has been involved. Their proposals center on trying to avoid a reversal on issues which we won at Geneva and to begin efforts to enact the President’s proposals made in the UN speech.14 State has developed a pro[Page 115]posal which seems to me a good one, that there be a second month-long meeting every year of the UN Human Rights Commission, and that the second meeting be held in New York. This would partially implement two of the President’s proposals, and appears to be a good compromise position that might gain acceptance. However there has been little integration of human rights objectives with other kinds of objectives for this meeting.

9. International Financial Institutions—This has recently blossomed into the issue of greatest concern. Basically what happened was that in the House, the Administration, understandably unwilling to respond to its first Congressional test by opposing a human rights initiative, took a wishy-washy position. During the course of both Committee markup and Floor debate, the Administration never expressed its opposition to the Harkin language although it did support a rather convoluted compromise amendment which Chairman Reuss introduced and pushed through Committee. The House took the very unusual step of dropping the Committee’s proposed amendment and adopting substitute language (Badillo-Harkin) by voice vote.

During the past week, a series of interagency meetings have been held to develop a strategy in order to avoid a repetition of the House defeat in the Senate. Senator Humphrey is a much more enthusiastic supporter of the more flexible language than was Reuss. However, the Administration has weakened its position by a series of changes in position of which Humphrey’s staff (which favors the stricter language) is fully aware. The amendment was unanimously adopted in Committee, but there is consensus among all departmental Congressional liaison offices and friendly Hill staff, that success in the Senate will depend on a vigorous Administration lobbying effort and clear opposition—such as was expressed by the President in last week’s press conference—to the Harkin approach.15 So far, no Administration representative has made a compelling case, mustering the real arguments, in opposition to the Harkin amendment. One problem has been that Derian really believes in the Harkin approach. However I think that’s now resolved.

If the Humphrey language succeeds on the Senate Floor, the crucial fight will be in Conference. The key determinant will be who gets appointed as House Conferees. My suggestion to Christopher, which he likes, is that the Administration should make every effort to try to get Congressman Fraser appointed. He is the most widely known and [Page 116] respected member on this issue, and apparently supports the Administration’s position. If Fraser got appointed and agreed to argue the Administration’s case, we could get at least a split House vote in Conference and come away with either the Humphrey language or a watered down Harkin. All of this however demands a vigorous, coordinated and well-handled Administration lobbying effort, such as we have not yet seen.

This issue has importance far beyond the IFIs. This language is now in both the military and economic assistance acts. If it gets added to the IFIs bill, there will be efforts to also include it in trade, monetary and food for peace legislation. If we lose it now these efforts are very likely to succeed.

II. Pending Actions

1. International Treaties—Decision needed on general vs. specific reservations. Immediately thereafter these should be sent to the Hill so that the President can go a little on the offensive, prodding Congress for action on these treaties in order to demonstrate their seriousness on this issue.

2. Coordinated Planning for ECOSOC and UNGA—As described above, more work is needed, particularly in integrating human rights with other objectives.

3. Decisions on and implementation of Visa study.

4. Planning for CSCE Review Conference.

5. Congressional lobbying on Harkin.

III. Principal Actors

The major actors on this issue so far have been the President, yourself, Andy Young, Patt Derian (Coordinator for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs at State), and Warren Christopher, to whom Vance has delegated the authority for the interagency group created in response to your memorandum.16 Also, Fred Bergsten has been actively involved in the IFIs issue. Various assistant secretaries at State, notably Holbrooke and Todman (ARA) have testified on this issue as it affects their regions.

Both Derian and Young are pretty unpredictable. Derian has been talking to all the fanatics in Congress and in the NGOs, and has therefore absorbed a pretty lopsided view of things. Christopher is just getting into this, and it is difficult to assess either his interest or feelings on it. Bergsten is tough and clear on the IFIs issue. Assistant Secretaries at State often confuse the issue through testimony which serves their in[Page 117]terest but directly conflicts with what other witnesses are saying. For example, during testimony on economic assistance to Korea and the Philippines, Holbrooke said that cuts in the program “would not lead to an improvement in the human rights situation”, implying that such an approach was “self-defeating”.17 This was just after Vance had testified in support of military assistance cuts, on the grounds that they would cause an improvement.18

No one is in a leadership position on this issue. Derian is not in a position to do so, either bureaucratically or personally. Perhaps Christopher is, but I have some doubts. Most important, no one has taken any steps to recruit the potential supporters in Congress—particularly Fraser, who has just published a good piece on this issue in Foreign Policy (Tab B)19—note the last paragraph. It could be enormously helpful for you to ask him to come in, and to begin to establish a close working relationship with him. He is a thoughtful and intelligent man who has been involved in this issue for years. He would be more effective in making the Administration’s case in the House than ten lobbyists.

IV. Broader Issues

At this time my judgment is that the Administration’s policy on human rights amounts to: “the President is deeply committed to promoting human rights wherever possible”—and nothing more. There is no agreed conception of how human rights fits into the fabric of foreign policy, its trade-off value vis-à-vis other issues (economic cooperation, national security, etc.), no idea of how to present and defend a policy that is not 100% moralistic (in fact there appear to be some who favor a totally pure policy). Nor is there a strategy for stopping the Congressional bandwagon or breaking up the ultra-left/far-right coalition that was responsible for our defeat in the House. It is important to note that it was conservatives who want no foreign aid who gave the Harkin language the necessary votes.

Beyond a recognition of his deep personal commitment, there is also considerable uncertainty both within the Administration and among his supporters in Congress over what the President really wants. He has taken several different positions. For example, at a recent [Page 118] Congressional meeting he expressed support for the Harkin amendment, then opposed it at the press conference.20 This contributes to the drift in the bureaucracy.

Finally, there is no forum in which all this can be straightened out.

I have attached at Tab A a revised draft of a PRM on this subject21 which I believe would go a long way toward providing the necessary focus. Although we run the obvious risk of getting worthless mush out of it, I believe that it would be useful to force even the more philosophical issues onto paper. Otherwise we will constantly be responding to issues as they arise in an ad hoc manner and will probably continue to drift into the kind of mess we are now in on the IFIs.

Among the questions this draft addresses are: whose conception of human rights are we going to be concerned with (ours which is mostly political, or the developing world’s which is primarily economic and social); how do we define gross violators and can we realistically draw up guidelines for making such determinations; how good are we at actually finding out what is going on and monitoring changes made in response to our pressures; what concrete initiatives are available; and, most important, what are our goals and what can we expect to accomplish within 4 or 8 years.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Subject Chron File, Box 94, Human Rights: 1977. No classification marking.
  2. See footnote 4, Document 26.
  3. Scheduled to be printed in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, volume XVI, Southern Africa.
  4. Reference is to Carter’s March 17 address to the United Nations General Assembly; see Document 26 and footnote 2 thereto. Documentation concerning Department of State and NSC efforts toward preparing the President’s address is in the National Archives, RG 59, Policy and Planning Staff—Office of the Director, Records of Anthony Lake, 1977–1981, Lot 82D298, Box 2, TL 3/1–3/15/77; Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 28, Human Rights: 2–4/77; and Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Defense/Security Huntington, Box 37, Human Rights: 2–3/77.
  5. See Document 4.
  6. Young, Vance, and Brzezinski met with the President on January 29 in the White House Oval Office from 10 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials, President’s Daily Diary) In an undated memorandum prepared prior to the meeting, Brzezinski summarized several agenda items suggested by Vance, including the signing of the human rights covenants, and provided talking points for Carter. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Agency File, Box 16, State Department (State): 1–3/77)
  7. In a March 28 memorandum to the President, Lipshutz indicated that he had received final drafts of “alternative reservations” to the four treaties and that the Department of State had prepared a summary of “pros and cons” related to the use of general reservations. Carter inserted a handwritten comment at the top of the memorandum: “Bob—A) My suggestion is that we have general reservation ‘subject to U.S. Constitution’ & add specific reservations that conflict [unclear] US Law. B) Let V.P. handle this (with you)—J.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Global Issues—Mathews Subject File, Box 11, Human Rights: Treaties: 3/77–10/78) Additional documentation regarding the drafting of reservations designed to protect the legal position of the United States is ibid.
  8. In an April 13 memorandum to the President, Brzezinski indicated that the Department of State, Lipshutz, and the NSC Staff had all recommended that Carter announce in his Pan-American Day speech his intention to sign and seek ratification of the American Convention on Human Rights, negotiated in 1969. Carter approved this recommendation. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North–South Pastor Files, Subject File, Box 55, Human Rights: 1–5/77) An undated draft of Brzezinski’s memorandum to Carter and an April 8 memorandum from Tarnoff to Brzezinski setting out the Department’s rationale are ibid. The President announced in his April 14 address that he would sign the Convention, and he signed it on June 1. (Public Papers: Carter, 1977: Book I, pp. 614 and 1050–1051) See also Document 47.
  9. In response to a question raised by Subcommittee Chairman Inouye during Vance’s February 24 testimony before the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations of the Senate Appropriations Committee (see footnote 5, Document 17), Vance indicated that the Department had reduced aid to Argentina, Ethiopia, and Uruguay within the context of the proposed FY 1978 foreign military and security assistance legislation. (Bernard Gwertzman, “Security Links Cited,” The New York Times, February 25, 1977, p. A–1) The House International Relations Committee subsequently reported the security assistance bill (H.R. 6884) on May 9 after reducing the amount of security assistance for several nations, including Ethiopia, Argentina, Brazil, El Salvador, and Guatemala, according to guidelines codified in the 1976 International Security Assistance and Arms Export Control Act (P.L. 94–329). (Congress and the Nation, Volume V, 1977–1980, p. 39) Carter signed the International Security Assistance Act of 1977 into law on August 4. (H.R. 6884; P.L. 95–92)
  10. See footnote 6, Document 17.
  11. See footnotes 4 and 6, Document 28.
  12. Reference is to an exchange of letters between Sakharov and Carter; see footnote 2, Document 18. Telegram 3046 from Moscow, March 7, reported that the Embassy had received another letter from Sakharov addressed to the President and transmitted the text. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, N770001–0766) Bukovsky met with Carter, Mondale, and Brzezinski in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on March 1 from 3:30 to 3:37 p.m. Clift, Eisele, Levitsky, and Krimer also attended this meeting. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials, President’s Daily Diary) No record of this conversation has been found. See also Bernard Gwertzman, “Carter and Mondale See Bukovsky, a Soviet Dissident,” The New York Times, March 2, 1977, p. A–1.
  13. During a March 8 session of the UN Human Rights Commission meeting, Tyson asserted that the U.S. delegation would be remiss not to “express our profoundest regrets” for the role U.S. officials and others had “played in the subversion of the previous democratically elected Chilean Government that was overthrown by the coup of Sept. 11, 1973.” The Department of State responded, indicating that Tyson’s statement was unauthorized and did not reflect the official views of the United States. (“U.S. Official Expresses ‘Regrets’ For Role in Chile but Is Disavowed,” The New York Times, March 9, 1977, p. A–1) Carter addressed the issue during his March 9 press conference, commenting that the remark “made by the delegate concerning our past involvement in Chilean political affairs was inappropriate. I didn’t know about it ahead of time. It was a personal expression of opinion by that delegate.” (Department of State Bulletin, April 4, 1977, pp. 305–06)
  14. Tuchman, in the NSC Global Issues Cluster’s April 5 evening report to Brzezinski, noted: “The State Department feels, for a variety of reasons, that the major thrust of the forthcoming ECOSOC meeting may be a concerted effort on the part of certain nations to undo the relatively modest gains we made on this issue in the recent Geneva meetings. Efforts are underway to try to consolidate those gains and to identify and lineup possible supporters. This effort—to preserve what we just won—may undermine efforts to move ahead on the proposals the President made in his UN speech.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Global Issues—Oplinger/Bloomfield Subject File, Box 36, Evening Reports: 2–4/77)
  15. See footnote 3, Document 37.
  16. See Document 31.
  17. Holbrooke, then Assistant Secretary-designate for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, testified before the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs of the House Committee on International Relations on March 10. Holbrooke’s prepared statement is printed in Department of State Bulletin, April 4, 1977, pp. 322–326.
  18. Presumable reference to Vance’s February 24 testimony before the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations of the Senate Appropriations Committee; see footnote 9 above.
  19. Not found attached. Presumable reference to Donald Fraser, “Freedom and Foreign Policy,” Foreign Policy, Number 26 (Spring 1977), pp. 140–156.
  20. Not further identified.
  21. Not found attached. According to the minutes of the April 25 Cabinet meeting, Brzezinski “said that he believes we need a Presidential review memorandum on human rights policy, and that he plans to have a proposal to the President on the subject this week.” (Carter Library, Vertical File, Cabinet Meeting Minutes, 1/24/77–5/23/77, Box 7)