Here’s an advantage White House tapes have over White House documents — even documents as illuminating as the Kissinger Telcons: The tapes capture statements the documents don’t. 


On January 20, 1973, when Nixon and Kissinger were discussing the threat of a cutoff of U.S. aid to South Vietnam spearheaded by congressional conservatives — a threat designed to force South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu to accept Nixon and Kissinger’s settlement terms, which all three realized would lead to a Communist military victory following a face-saving (for Nixon) “decent interval” — Nixon said, “I don’t know whether the threat goes too far or not, but I’d do any damn thing, that is, or to cut off his head if necessary.” 

Pretty important sentence, no? But whoever transcribed the conversation for Kissinger didn’t include it. If you subscribe to the Digital National Security Archive, you can read the Telcon here. It’s #KA09342.

From the tape that was released today, I added missing words and sentences to the transcript in the Telcon. (You can listen to the tape as you read the transcript, thanks to Presidential Recordings Program Chairman David Coleman. You can also download a broadcast-quality digital sound file of this conversation from the PRP by right-clicking on this link, 036-021.flac, and selecting “Download Linked File As” to save the file to your hard drive.)

I put the parts that the Telcon left out in italics. This passage starts about 3 minutes and 50 seconds into the tape:

Kissinger: But what we should put in the letter from you is that you must have an answer from him by noon tomorrow whether, even though you have instructed me to seek that change, he will concur in letting us initial it. 

President Nixon: Letting us, or–

Kissinger: I mean–

President Nixon: Ha ha. 

Kissinger: –he will concur in our initialing it. 

President Nixon: Yeah. 

Kissinger: Because if not, you will have to initial it unilaterally.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: And you would then have to call the congressional leaders in Sunday night prior to my departure and inform them of that fact. I mean, you don’t have to do it, I just want to give him an explanation why he has to answer tomorrow.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: That once the congressional leaders are informed, aid will become difficult even if he then still finally comes along.

President Nixon: Yeah, that the congressional leaders will, in my opinion, be adamant in saying that we should go unilaterally and not seek further cooperation. 

Kissinger: My worry is that if we don’t give him an absolutely unshakable deadline, he will yield, I will now bet — I would say the chances are 99 out of 100.

President Nixon: Which you–that, of course–it’s a question of which day. I guess we all thought he’d yield Tuesday, and now we thought he’d yield Saturday and now–

Kissinger: No, I never thought he’d yield Tuesday. I thought–

President Nixon: No, no, I mean some did. I mean–

Kissinger: I thought he’d yield either today or next Tuesday. And what we have to bring home to him is that Tuesday is too late. 

President Nixon: That’s right. Yes.

Kissinger: But [General Alexander M.] Haig and [Ambassador Ellsworth F.] Bunker and our intelligence chief there, we have–all their units have already been informed that the ceasefire will go in–

President Nixon: Why don’t you say this, that before–and he doesn’t need to know that [unclear]--I said that before you leave for Paris on Sunday evening, I have to meet with congressional leaders, that at that time they are going to ask whether–that I will have to tell them, yes or no, whether or not he will concur in the initialing. 

Kissinger: Right.

President Nixon: That we will do our best in that, but I cannot guarantee–but in any event, we will try.  But if I tell the congressional leaders he will not concur, then–that it is my judgment without–that I am convinced from having talked to Senator [Barry M.] Goldwater [R-Arizona] and Senator [John C.] Stennis, [D-Mississippi] who are his major supporters in the Senate, that they will throw up their hands–that they will in effect direct–they will in effect inform me that the Congress will not go along on further aid unless he goes along on Tuesday. 

Kissinger: Right.

President Nixon: How about putting it that way?

Kissinger: Exactly.

President Nixon: Tell him I’m going to have a meeting with congressional leaders. 

Kissinger: Well, uh–

President Nixon: You see, he doesn’t need to know whether we have it or not. Or you don’t want to say that?

Kissinger: I think–

President Nixon: You see, I–

Kissinger: We’ll say you’ll have a meeting and at that time you’ll have to tell them on what basis we’re proceeding. 

President Nixon: Yes, that as I–tell him I’m going to have a meeting on Sunday with congressional leaders before you leave. We should say with selected congressional leaders before you leave. At that time, the question will be–I have been informed that the question will be raised as to whether or not he will concur in our initialing of the agreement. If his answer is that he will not concur in the initialing of the agreement, that the congressional leaders in my view without question then will move to cut off assistance. Is that going too far? In other words, I don’t know whether the threat goes too far or not, but I’d–

Kissinger: No.

President Nixon:–do any damn thing, that is, or to cut off his head if necessary, but, uh–

Kissinger: The way to put it, I think, Mr. President, is to say that even if he should then later come along–

President Nixon: Yes, that is–

Kissinger: –that [unclear–“our assurances,” according to Kissinger Telcon, but Nixon’s talking over Kissinger] will do him no good because they will look as if they’d been extorted. [The Telcon says “exploited” rather than “extorted.”]







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  • This was quite educational. Maintain up with fantastic posts.It really is like you can examine my intellect. thanks a whole lot.

  • 1 comment

    1. Hermes Birkin Comment:April 13, 2012 at 7:28 pm

      This was quite educational. Maintain up with fantastic posts.It really is like you can examine my intellect. thanks a whole lot.


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