1. Introduction
    1. Audio
  2. Chapter I
    1. Audio
    2. Video
    3. Text
  3. Chapter II
    1. Audio
    2. Video
    3. Text
  4. Chapter III
    1. Audio
    2. Video
    3. Text
  5. Chapter IV
  6. Chapter V
    1. Audio
    2. Text
  7. Conclusion
  8. Appendix
    1. Audio
    2. Video
    3. Text
    4. Photo Gallery

Kissinger's Perspective

In his memoirs Kissinger says argued for the use of fighter-bombers over populated areas in the December 14 Oval Office meeting. He then states that it was Haig's idea to use B-52s to shock Hanoi, and that President Nixon accepted that idea. Initially, he states he went along with the idea with "slight reluctance, later with conviction." Furthermore, he believed that the "decision speeded the end of the war; even in retrospect I can think of no other measure that would have." He recognizes that President Nixon and he had differences of opinion on the bombings while they were planning for them, but that once the decision was made he fully supported the decision. The tapes and cables, however, show that Kissinger repeatedly recommended bombing to President Nixon as a solution to the stalemate. In fact, in the December Kissinger recommends “bombing the bejesus” out of the North Vietnamese; and the recommendation of using fighter-bombers is conspicuously absent. His language throughout is one of assent in delivering a massive shock through bombing to North Vietnam. Furthermore, he needles President Nixon by telling him he will be "impotent" if he does not bomb or that the North Vietnamese are "scared out of their minds that he will resume bombing." These statements help cajole the president towards what Kissinger believed was the right decision.

Similarly, the cables show that Kissinger wanted to stop the negotiations sooner than President Nixon did. However, he claims in his memoir that President Nixon was ready to give up and return to the October agreement. The B-52 bombing, Kissinger states, was "his last roll of the dice." But the cables show that in fact, he proclaimed the negotiations dead on December 4. He stayed at the Paris talks in December for an extra eight days after he said there was no hope, because President Nixon did not want to resort to a military option yet. When the outrage about the bombings started, which reflected poorly on his negotiations, not to mention his "peace is at hand" statement, Kissinger helped create a narrative through his press contacts that President Nixon was responsible for the bombing decision. This helped to create a historical narrative that has persisted that President Nixon pulled him back in order to begin bombing North Vietnam. This explains why President Nixon instructed Colson to keep a log of all of Kissinger’s telephone conversations. That log informed them that Kissinger was speaking to various reporters who were writing defamatory articles about the President. In his memoir Kissinger was adamant in his belief that the media outrage over the bombings was unjustified, and that on that issue President Nixon was treated more "unjustly" than on any other issue of his Presidency, but some of that was due to Kissinger's own actions.21

Nixon's Perspective

President Nixon states in his memoir that throughout the December meetings it was Kissinger who wanted to break off the negotiations early and initiate a step-up in bombing on North Vietnam. He preferred to continue negotiations until it was apparent that there was no way to go forward. It was only after the December 13 meeting between Kissinger and Tho that he reluctantly came to the decision that they needed to bomb Hanoi in order to motivate them into negotiating a fair settlement. The taped conversations and the cables show the truth of this statement. President Nixon said he felt that after the breakdown in talks in December he had no alternative but to go to the military option because of the "cynicism and perfidy of the North Vietnamese." However, President Nixon mistakenly stated that Kissinger wanted to bomb below the 20th parallel. He states that "intuition" told him it would have to be something more dramatic, and when he checked on the area south of the 20th parallel it was predominantly rice paddies and jungle. He then decided to bomb Hanoi and Haiphong. He believed that he would face the same political heat for a small bombing escalation as he would for a large bombing escalation; therefore, he decided to bomb the entire north with B-52’s. "Anything less will only make the enemy contemptuous," he said.

However, it could be argued that no one, especially President Nixon, was prepared for the outrage that ensued after the bombings started. President Nixon writes that the bombings were the only option available to bring the North Vietnamese back to the negotiating table. Furthermore, the bombings achieved their purpose despite the furor raised internationally and in the press. They allowed America to have "peace with honor" and they gave South Vietnam a chance to survive. Nixon asserts that the ability of the South Vietnamese to hold their own against the communists proved vietnamization had been a success. The war and the peace agreements were successful. The fault for the collapse of the south lay with Congress. Specifically, it was their refusal to support the south militarily, the aid money that was withheld, and the War Powers Resolution of 1974. To emphasize this point Nixon wrote that the "war and peace in Indochina that America had won at such a cost over twelve years of sacrifice and fighting were lost within a matter of months once Congress refused to fulfill our obligations." All this was exacerbated, he felt, by the media’s obsession with the Watergate proceedings.22

Neither President Nixon nor Kissinger was entirely honesty about the October 26 "peace is at hand" statement. Although Kissinger came up with the phrase, President Nixon approved the content of the press conference. They intentionally misled the public into thinking that the Vietnam War was close to being over for their own short term political gains. However, President Nixon, Colson, and Haldeman are mistaken when they later make disparaging remarks about the phrase. In saying that they knew his statement was a big mistake and a "grave error,"23 they are also mistaken. At the outset, they all were ecstatic about it. Only in the maelstrom that followed the December Bombings did they begin to realize that the statement was creating problems for them. It was then that they began to change their opinion on the statement. They became even more disenchanted with Kissinger and the statement after the agreement was signed, and Kissinger was getting, in their opinion, undue credit for the success. Unfortunately, their frustrations with "peace is at hand," with the credit the media was heaping on Kissinger (especially the Nobel Peace Prize), and with Kissinger's leaks to the press, cause them all too often to denigrated into making anti-Semitic remarks about Kissinger.

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