Nixon Ordered Cambodia Cover-Up
BBC News 17nov2005
[Other articles below]
Richard Nixon told top aides
involved in Vietnam to lie to the public about
US operations in neighbouring Cambodia, files released in Washington show.
He ordered the deception at a meeting of his top military and national security aides in 1970, a month after admitting publicly to a secret war.
Nixon instruction to aides running
"Publicly, we say one thing - actually, we do another," the president said in a memo after the meeting.
About 14,000 US troops were in Cambodia hunting North Vietnamese forces.
Nixon's revelation of the operation sparked protests and congressional action over what many US lawmakers viewed as an illegal war.
When he called the security meeting at his Western White House in California on 31 May, it was to tell his aides to carry on without regard to public opinion at home.
"I want you to put the air in there and not spare the horses - do not withdraw for domestic reasons but only for military reasons," the files released by the US National Archives show him as saying.
"Just do it. Don't come back and ask permission each time."
"We cannot sit here and let the enemy believe that Cambodia is our last gasp," he argued in the memo, marked as "Eyes Only, Top Secret Sensitive".
Nixon noted that Americans already believed the Cambodian operation was "all but over".
He also ordered plans for offensive operations in neutral Laos and a summer offensive in South Vietnam.
The 50,000 pages of documents newly released show growing concern about the course of the war in Vietnam and the ability of the South Vietnamese government, in particular.
source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4444638.stm 17nov2005
Documents Show Nixon Deception on Cambodia
HOPE YEN / AP 17nov2005
WASHINGTON — Determined to win re-election, the Nixon administration sought ways to use former Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa for its campaign in 1972, the year after President Nixon pardoned the union leader, newly released documents show.
The material released Wednesday by the National Archives shows the Justice Department reviewed how far the administration could go in promoting Hoffa at campaign appearances in an effort to cut into traditionally strong union support for Democrats.
"Hoffa should be advised that public campaign appearances without official or unofficial union sponsorship are not prevented by the terms of his release," an Aug. 21, 1972, Justice Department memo states.
It was among 50,000 pages of declassified documents made public from the Nixon years that shed light on the Vietnam War and a president who tried not to let public and congressional opinion get in his way.
"Publicly, we say one thing," Nixon told aides in one memo after his secret war in Cambodia became known. "Actually, we do another."
Nixon pardoned Hoffa in December 1971 for two federal convictions for jury tampering and mail fraud, then got the Teamsters' endorsement the following year. Critics long have contended that administration officials cut the deal in exchange for political favors; the charge has never been proved.
The voluminous documents paint a picture of an administration keenly aware of Hoffa's labor support and how it might be used to their advantage. The Teamsters also supported Nixon in his 1968 presidential campaign.
In a March 19, 1971, memo to Attorney General John Mitchell, White House counsel John Dean spelled out the political calculation after Hoffa's wife and son requested a meeting with Nixon to ask for a pardon.
At the time, White House officials were concerned that Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., could mount a fierce challenge for the presidency.
"If he is paroled, we may get some credit and he will start off with a constructive relationship with the president," Dean wrote. "He would be a dedicated factor to box in Kennedy, and he might eventually be key for us to organized labor.
"Politically, for him to be released with a sense of debt and/or interest relative to the president, could be momentous," Dean added.
The documents also offer new details on the administration's reaction to the pardon. By Dec. 11, 1973, for instance, White House officials were investigating whether political deals were cut, and, if so, whether Nixon knew about it.
"We are interested in discussing the president's role in this matter and not in defending any former White House personnel," speechwriter Ben Stein wrote deputy counsel Fred Fielding, noting that a white paper "answering fully the charges" was forthcoming. No such paper was released.
In the Aug. 21, 1972, memo, Justice Department lawyers asserted it would be appropriate for Hoffa to elicit union support even though Nixon's pardon a year earlier had imposed a restriction that the labor leader could not return to union activities until 1980.
The lawyers contend there are "sound legal arguments" for Hoffa to make appearances before union groups. However, to avoid a direct conflict with the presidential pardon, it is inadvisable for Nixon officials to "encourage him in any way to initiate open involvement with labor organizations," according to the memo.
"He should be advised to avoid any official contact with labor groups," the memo said.
Nixon handily won re-election in 1972; Hoffa eventually disappeared without a trace on July 30, 1975.
The documents also show Nixon's political calculations when it came to defending the previously secret U.S. bombings and troop movements in Cambodia.
On May 31, 1970, a month after Nixon went on television to explain his actions, asserting that he would not let his nation become "a pitiful, helpless giant," the president met top military and national security aides at the Western White House in San Clemente, Calif.
Revelation of the operation had sparked protests and congressional action against what many lawmakers from both parties considered an illegal war. Nixon noted that Americans believed the Cambodian operation was "all but over," even as 14,000 troops were engaged across the border in a hunt for North Vietnamese operating there.
In a memo from the meeting marked "Eyes Only, Top Secret Sensitive," Nixon told his military men to continue doing what was necessary in Cambodia, but to say for public consumption that the United States was merely providing support to South Vietnamese forces when necessary to protect U.S. troops.
"That is what we will say publicly," he asserted. "But now, let's talk about what we will actually do."
He instructed: "Do not withdraw for domestic reasons but only for military reasons. We have taken all the heat on this one. Just do it. Don't come back and ask permission each time."
Associated Press Writer Cal Woodward contributed to this report.
Vietnam Archive Casts a Shadow Across Decades
THOM SHANKER and DAVID STOUT / New York Times 17nov2005
WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 - White House advisers convene secret sessions about the political dangers of revelations that American troops committed atrocities in the war zone, and about whether the president can delicately intervene in the investigation. In the face of an increasingly unpopular war, they wonder at the impact on support at home. The best way out of the war, they agree, is to prop up a new government that they hope can unite the fractured foreign land.
The National Archives and Records Administration on Wednesday released 50,000 pages of previously classified documents from the Nixon administration that reveal how all of that president's men wrestled with issues that eerily parallel problems facing the Bush administration.
There are many significant differences between the wars in Vietnam and in Iraq - a point that senior administration officials make at any opportunity. But in tone and content, the Nixon-era debate about the impact of that generation's war - and of war-crimes trials - on public support for the military effort and for White House domestic initiatives strikes many familiar chords.
As the Nixon administration was waging a war and trying to impose a peace in South Vietnam, it worried intensely about how the 1968 massacre at My Lai of South Vietnamese civilians by American troops would hurt the war effort, both at home and in Asia.
My Lai "could prove acutely embarrassing to the United States" and could affect the Paris peace talks, Defense Secretary Melvin R. Laird warned President Nixon. "Domestically, it will provide grist for the mills of antiwar activists," Mr. Laird said.
Documents show how the Nixon White House fretted over politics and perception, much as the Bush White House has done during the Iraq war, and that it feared that mistreatment of civilians could be ruinous to its image.
"The handling of this case to date has strictly observed the code of military justice," Henry A. Kissinger, then the national security adviser, wrote in a memo to the Nixon aide H. R. Haldeman. Mr. Kissinger said the court-martial of Lt. William L. Calley Jr., who was implicated in the massacre and ultimately convicted, would alleviate press concerns about a cover-up.
Moreover, President Nixon believed that images could be changed, as the presidential aide John R. Brown III wrote to Mr. Kissinger. "Secretary Laird's press is a measure of the good things a onetime hard-liner can earn by playing the dove for the liberal press," Mr. Brown wrote on Jan. 14, 1970.
With so many academic studies, popular histories and memoirs on the bookshelf - and more than seven million pages of Nixon documents released since 1986 by the National Archives in an ongoing declassification process - historians combing over the files on Wednesday said they were looking for golden needles in a haystack more than mining a previously unknown vein of precious metals.
The new release of documents included files on early American assessments of Israel's nuclear program, debates about supporting Pakistan during its war with India in 1971 and the superpower rivalry with Moscow.
Some of the Vietnam documents contain details about how the Nixon administration tried to prop up South Vietnam's president, Nguyen Van Thieu, behind the scenes while portraying him publicly as a courageous leader, as President Johnson had done.
In language that resonates with the positions of the Bush administration with regard to building a new government in Baghdad, the Nixon White House said in May 1969 that it wanted to establish in Vietnam "procedures for political choice that give each significant group a real opportunity to participate in the political life of the nation."
"What the United States wants for South Vietnam is not the important thing," said an internal White House planning-initiative memo. "What North Vietnam wants for South Vietnam is not the important thing. What is important is what the people of South Vietnam want for themselves."
The papers illustrate, too, how as late as 1969 American leaders really did not know very much about the psychology of North Vietnam - or, for that matter, about sentiments in the South.
In March 1969, while the Paris peace talks were under way, American officials worried about how strongly to react to a rocket attack on Saigon. Secretary of State William P. Rogers cabled American diplomats about the decision not to retaliate militarily against the North.
"Plainly, we shall need to have the most careful and continuing readings of the South Vietnamese temperature," Mr. Rogers wrote, reflecting concerns in Washington that the Saigon government would suspect it was being sold out.
Around that time, the State Department suggested that the American negotiator Henry Cabot Lodge soften his language in conveying American displeasure to the Hanoi delegation.
"We prefer this language not because it is less ambiguous than the original version but, on the contrary, because it is more ambiguous - and hence more flexible - as to our response," a State Department cable said.
That July, President Thieu fussed over Washington's editing of a speech he was to make recounting all the concessions that had been made to the Communists and calling again for general elections. A secret State Department wire to Saigon and Paris said an aide to Mr. Thieu, in describing his boss's annoyance, "used a phrase which, translated into English, comes out like 'Secretary Rogers has deflowered my speech.' "
President Nixon praised the July 11 speech as "a comprehensive, statesmanlike and eminently fair proposal for a political settlement in South Vietnam."
The documents show an internal debate in Washington over what effects the death of Ho Chi Minh, the North Vietnamese leader, in September 1969, would have.
Mr. Kissinger told the president that Ho's death would hurt North Vietnam's morale but would probably not soften its resolve. But a State Department cable to its diplomats around that time, when the department was headed by Mr. Kissinger's rival, Mr. Rogers, had a different perspective.
"We are, of course, uncertain ourselves of consequences of Ho's death," it read in part. "We are handicapped in our own analysis by paucity of good intelligence information on North Vietnamese intentions and internal politics."
During the summer and fall of 1969, a great effort was made by the Nixon White House to intervene in a military investigation of a group of Army Special Forces who had been accused of killing a suspected double agent in Nha Trang.
In a memorandum to Bryce Harlow, a Nixon aide, on Sept. 26, 1969, Mr. Kissinger counseled him about how to deal with the concerns of Congress. "The main substantive point you should make," Mr. Kissinger wrote, "is that the president is very concerned about the long-term implications of this case and that he is most anxious to dispose of it in a way which will do the least damage to our national security, the prestige and discipline of our armed services and to preserve our future freedom of action in the clandestine area."
"This is clearly a sign of things to come - and we are really going to be hit," Mr. Haldeman wrote to Mr. Kissinger, urging a quiet resolution. "Anything we can do — even at this late date?"
John Files contributed reporting for this article.
source: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/17/international/17nixon.html?pagewanted=print 17nov2005