Richard Nixon and Henry A. Kissinger on 26 December 1971


Transcript

Edited by Ken Hughes, with Patrick J. Garrity, Erin R. Mahan, and Kieran K. Matthews

National Security Adviser Henry A. Kissinger calls to wish the President a Merry Christmas and to briefly discuss foreign policy developments and plans for the new year.

President Nixon

Hello?

White House Operator

Dr. [Henry A.] Kissinger, sir.[note 1] Henry A. Kissinger was U.S. national security adviser from January 1969 to November 1975, and U.S. secretary of state from September 1973 to January 1977.

President Nixon

Hello?

Henry A. Kissinger

Merry Christmas, Mr. President.

President Nixon

Did you survive it?

Kissinger

Oh, yes.

President Nixon

[Laughs.]

Seventeen seconds excised by the National Archives and Records Administration as private information.
President Nixon

Where are you, the big house?[note 2] Kissinger was taking a holiday with his children at the Key Biscayne Hotel and Villas in Florida.

Kissinger

I'm in—no, I'm in one of the villas at the—

President Nixon

Well, that'll be better. You can get more service there.

Kissinger

Exactly, exactly.

President Nixon

Yeah. Your children with you?

Kissinger

They are with me and they love it. They've never been here.

President Nixon

Tell me this, is . . . it's raining down there, though, isn't it?

Kissinger

No.

President Nixon

Oh, it stopped?

Kissinger

No, it's perfect weather. It's a little windy.

President Nixon

They stopped—it rained yesterday, because I called [J.] Edgar Hoover down there and it was raining.[note 3] J. Edgar Hoover was director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 1924 to 1972.

Kissinger

Yes, but it stopped raining yesterday afternoon, I'm told. It's perfect weather.

President Nixon

Yeah, yeah.

Kissinger

It's a little windy, but it's dying down by the hour.

President Nixon

Well, you tell your kids to walk to the lighthouse, will you?

Kissinger

Well, I think that's what they're planning to do.

President Nixon

Well, then tell them that I always did that when I stayed at the Key Biscayne. You know, they won't be bothered, and they can just run—it's a mile and a half walk. It's the best walk in the world, and they can, you know, pick up shells. It's great fun.

Kissinger

It's beautiful.

President Nixon

And they can do anything they want. And if they—if it’s—if the swimming is bad there, they can go over to the other side. Well—

Kissinger

They got the strike off last night, Mr. President.[note 4] Nixon had ordered the biggest round of American air strikes on North Vietnam since Lyndon Johnson’s bombing halt in November 1968.

President Nixon

Oh, they did? I—that's why I was calling to see what—any developments—what kind of a one they got off?

Kissinger

Well, they had good weather and they got everything into the air. I haven't got the bomb damage assessments yet, because they just stopped flying two hours ago.

President Nixon

Yeah. Well, at least that's one day of it, huh?

Kissinger

That's right. And they think they can get at least 48 hours, and maybe as high as 72 [hours].

President Nixon

Uh-huh. Well, I think it's a good time to do it, don't you?

Kissinger

We had to do it, Mr. President.

President Nixon

The other side violated the—

Kissinger

And the same thing in the Plaines des Jarres. They are stepping up the infiltration.[note 5] Kissinger is referring to North Vietnamese infiltration of soldiers and supplies through the border area of Laos into South Vietnam.

President Nixon

Right.

Kissinger

And—

President Nixon

Well, they’re—I think they're really at—your analysis may be correct. Who knows? They may be getting—trying to get to a bargaining position.

Kissinger

Well, Mr. President, they're seeing [Leslie T.] Bob Hope, for example.[note 6] Leslie T. "Bob" Hope was an actor, comedian, and USO performer. You know, it's a cheap ploy, but it's what they usually do.[note 7] Comedian Bob Hope was in South Vietnam entertaining American soldiers over the holiday.

President Nixon

Yeah. [Pause.] That's right.

Kissinger

And . . . I don't think they'll let it get to the election without a negotiation.

President Nixon

Well, we're going to be awful hard to negotiate with, though, at this point. There's no reason to just go through that business of Paris again. That’s just—

Kissinger

I think, Mr. President, that, as we discussed a few weeks ago, [President Nixon acknowledges] towards the end of January, you might just go public with the October plan and put it before them as if it were a new plan.[note 8] In a televised address from the Oval Office on 25 January 1972, the President would reveal the history of secret talks Kissinger had held with North Vietnamese and outline a settlement proposal. See “Address to the Nation Making Public a Plan for Peace in Vietnam,” 25 January 1972, in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard M. Nixon, 1972 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1974), doc. 21.

President Nixon

Yeah.

Kissinger

Say a little bit about what's gone before. I wouldn't give a long story—

President Nixon

Nope. Nope, nope, I agree.

Kissinger

I don't think they’re—people are really interested in a—

President Nixon

No, they aren't interested in who did what to whom. They're only interested in—well, you remember like our—now is the time to have the benefit of what we did in October of ‘69—'70. Just put out a new peace plan, and then it'll get a big play, and then it’ll—they'll not answer it, and that's that.

Kissinger

That's right, but it will get us a month or two.

President Nixon

That's right.

Kissinger

We can say a little bit about what went on during the summer just to set the—

President Nixon

Yeah. I would simply—without going into details, I would simply say that we have got—we have been—we have had 10 or 15 private meetings on this and that, [Kissinger acknowledges] and have presented this all to them, and this is our offer.

Kissinger

That it's a lie that they've [unclear] the seven points. [President Nixon acknowledges.] We were actually negotiating it.

President Nixon

Correct.

Kissinger

But this is—what we now put before them grows out of [President Nixon acknowledges] both our private and public meetings.

President Nixon

This strike will probably not be played then in the papers until tomorrow.

Kissinger

Well, not until—no, actually, with the papers the way they run, not until tomorrow. That's right.

President Nixon

That's fine; that's good. That's good. And it'll—but it'll—this is the one that hits mainly in the Mụ Giạ Pass area, and that sort of place?[note 9] North Vietnam used the Mụ Giạ mountain pass to funnel troops onto the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos.

Kissinger

Well, it hits the Pass area—no, it hits all the storage areas along the coast, too. And we're going to wind up with hitting Vinh.

President Nixon

Yeah.

Kissinger

We're going to take out all the airfields, and—

President Nixon

Well, the purpose for getting the—we figure you can get some planes? On the—knock out some planes, as I understand it.

Kissinger

That's right, and also, the way they ship this stuff is to send it down by boat through Vinh and Dong Hoi. And then they put it on trucks, and we're hitting both of these transshipment points.

President Nixon

Yeah.

Kissinger

And the major point is just to show them that there's still a sting left.

President Nixon

Yeah, yeah, yeah. OK. Nothing else in the world? I noticed that, you know, our Indian friends are having trouble, aren't they? They're now admitting that they've got to stay in Bangladesh for a few months, right?[note 10] The India–Pakistan War, which had begun on 3 December 1971, ended effectively on 16 December with the surrender of the Pakistani army in East Pakistan, although violence continued in the form of looting and reprisals. India recognized East Pakistan as the independent nation of Bangladesh, but Nixon and Kissinger were concerned that India might eventually annex all or part of its territory, or at least make Bangladesh into a satellite regime. India had aligned itself with the Soviet Union several months earlier by signing a treaty of friendship and cooperation; Pakistan was considered an important U.S. ally by Nixon and Kissinger, especially after it played a role in the diplomatic opening to China.

Kissinger

Oh, I think—

President Nixon

And then also telling [Zulfikar Ali] Bhutto that he can't claim it's part of Pakistan.[note 11] Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was Pakistani minister of foreign affairs from June 1963 to August 1966; president of Pakistan from December 1971 to August 1973; and prime minister of Pakistan from August 1973 to July 1977. Well, my God, I'd think Bhutto would scream from the housetops about that, wouldn't you?[note 12] The Pakistani military government of Agha Yayha Khan collapsed after the defeat. Bhutto, leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, assumed the presidency. Bhutto had been serving as deputy prime minister and foreign minister in a wartime government. He pledged to restore democracy and gain revenge against India. Nixon met with Bhutto while Bhutto attended emergency meetings of the United Nations dealing with the war. Nixon regarded him as a leftist and incorrigibly anti-American.

Kissinger

That Bhutto can't do what?

President Nixon

Said that Bhutto cannot—now that, you know, Bhutto is released from jail, and so forth—that he cannot claim that this is part of Pakistan anymore.[note 13] Bhutto had been jailed by the military regime for antigovernment activities in 1968–1969.

Kissinger

Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.

President Nixon

In other words, he's really—Bhutto just ought to raise hell. I mean, should they—is it part of India?

Kissinger

We will look . . . on this one, first of all, no one likes the Indians. And secondly, I think they're going to look worse and worse as time goes on.

President Nixon

Well, don't you think a little of the fact that they've been terribly cruel and deceitful is beginning to get through?

Kissinger

I have no doubt about it.

President Nixon

Yeah.

Kissinger

Nelson [A. Rockefeller] called me yesterday, and—[note 14] Nelson A. Rockefeller was the Republican mayor of New York from January 1959 to December 1973, and vice president of the United States from December 1974 to January 1977.

President Nixon

Oh, he did? Mm-hmm.

Kissinger

—we had a chat about Christmas. And he said he thought that the Indian situation is working in our favor, basically, with the public.[note 15] The Nixon administration had been criticized by many public figures, such as Sen. Edward M. "Teddy" Kennedy [D–Massachusetts], and foreign policy experts, for supporting the military dictatorship in Pakistan in its brutal repression of opposition in East Pakistan. These critics argued that the United States should be actively cultivating closer ties with democratic India. Nixon and Kissinger believed that they had been successful in presenting India to the American public as the aggressor in the current conflict, by arguing that India had sought the war all along in order to dismember its rival, Pakistan.

President Nixon

[Laughs.] Well, you know, the main thing though, Henry, look. Look at what they're doing. They're doing exactly what I certainly expected. They're occupying East Pakistan, and they’re—and I don't think they're ever going to get out. Do you?

Kissinger

They're occupying East Pakistan. There are more verified cases of atrocities under their rule—

President Nixon

Yeah.

Kissinger

—than there were under the Pakistan rule. There were never any pictures of them.

President Nixon

And now they had to—and, you know, now another lie comes out: They had to back down on the charge that the Pakistan army had slaughtered those intellectuals; it turns out to have been some religious sect.[note 16] It was widely reported in the Western media that the Pakistani army and its local collaborators had engaged in the systematic execution of intellectuals in East Pakistan, in order to eliminate the future leaders of an independent Bangladesh. In Dacca, however, students and newspapers blamed the massacre of Bengali intellectuals on religious extremists. “Dacca Massacre Laid to Fanatics,” Washington Post, 26 December 1971. You notice that? [Chuckles.]

Kissinger

Yeah, I noticed that.

President Nixon

Yeah. Anyway, fine. I hope you feel better, [Kissinger acknowledges] and just take it easy and look out the window.

Kissinger

Thank you, Mr. President.

President Nixon

OK. Bye.

Kissinger

Thank you for calling. Bye.

Cite as

“Richard Nixon and Henry A. Kissinger on 26 December 1971,” Conversation 017-100, Presidential Recordings Digital Edition [Nixon Telephone Tapes 1971, ed. Ken Hughes] (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2014–). URL: http://prde.upress.virginia.edu/conversations/4006721