WASHINGTON D.C. - President Richard Nixon acknowledged that
he had given instructions to "do anything short of a Dominican-type
action" to keep the democratically elected president of Chile
from assuming office, according to a White House
audio tape posted by the National Security Archive today.
A phone conversation captured by his secret Oval Office taping system
reveals Nixon telling his press secretary, Ron Zeigler, that he had
given such instructions to then U.S. Ambassador Edward Korry, "but
he just failed, the son of a bitch
. He should have kept Allende
from getting in."
A transcript of the president's comments on March 23, 1972, made
after the leak of corporate papers revealing collaboration between
ITT and the CIA to rollback the election of socialist leader Salvador
Allende, was recently published in the National Security Archive book,
Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability
by Peter Kornbluh; the tape marks the first time Nixon can be heard
discussing his orders to undermine Chilean democracy. The conversation
took place as Zeigler briefed the President on a State Department
press conference to contain the growing ITT/CIA scandal which included
one ITT document stating that Korry had been "given the green
light to move in the name of President Nixon
to do all possible
short of a Dominican Republic-type action to keep Allende from taking
power." Other declassified records show that Nixon secretly ordered
maximum CIA covert operations to "prevent Allende from coming
to power or unseat him" in the fall of 1970 but that Ambassador
Korry was deliberately not informed of covert efforts to instigate
a military coup.
When the White House-ordered covert operations failed to prevent
Allende's November 3, 1970, inauguration, Nixon's national security
advisor, Henry Kissinger, lobbied vigorously for a hard-line U.S.
policy "to prevent [Allende] from consolidating himself now when
we know he is weaker than he will ever be and when he obviously fears
our pressure and hostility," according to a previously unknown
eight-page briefing paper prepared for the President
on November 5, 1970. In the secret/sensitive "memorandum
for the president" Kissinger claimed that Allende's election
posed "one of the most serious challenges ever faced in the hemisphere"
and that Nixon's "decision as to what to do about it may be the
most historic and difficult foreign affairs decision you will have
to make this year." The memorandum reveals that Kissinger forcefully
pressed the President to overrule the State Department's position
that there was little Washington could do to oppose the legitimately
elected president of Chile and that the risks for U.S. interests of
intervening to oppose him were greater than coexisting with him. "If
all concerned do not understand that you want Allende opposed as strongly
as we can, the result will be a steady drift toward the modus vivendi
approach," Kissinger informed Nixon.
Kissinger personally requested an hour to brief Nixon on November
5 in preparation for a National Security Council meeting to discuss
Chile strategy the next day. The briefing paper records his threat
perception of an Allende government as a model for other countries.
As Kissinger informed the president: "The example of a successful
elected Marxist government in Chile would surely have an impact on-an
even precedent value for-other parts of the world, especially in Italy;
the imitative spread of similar phenomena elsewhere would in turn
significantly affect the world balance and our own position in it."
According to a transcript of the NSC meeting published in The Pinochet
File, Nixon told his aides the next day that "our main concern
is the prospect that [Allende] can consolidate himself and the picture
projected to the world will be his success."
"This document is the Rosetta stone for deciphering the motivations
of Kissinger and Nixon in undermining Chilean democracy," according
to Peter Kornbluh who directs the Archive's Chile Documentation Project.
"It reinforces the judgement of history on Kissinger's role as
the primary advocate of overthrowing the Allende government."
The Archive also posted today a series of declassified transcripts
of Kissinger's staff meetings after he became Secretary of State.
The transcripts, dated from the days following the coup that brought
General Augusto Pinochet to power through the first several years
of his regime's repression in Chile, record Kissinger's attitude toward
human rights atrocities and mounting Congressional pressure to curtail
U.S. economic and military assistance the military regime. They are
quoted at length in Kornbluh's book, The Pinochet File, and
recently cited in the New York Times Week in Review section
(December 28, 2003).
According to the first transcript dated October
1, 1973, when Kissinger was informed by his assistant secretary
of inter-American affairs of initial reports of massacres following
the coup he told his staff that the U.S. should not defend what the
regime was doing. However, he emphasized: "But I think we should
understand our policy--that however unpleasant they act, the [military]
government is better for us than Allende was."
As pressure from human rights advocates mounted for Washington to
distance itself from the Pinochet regime, according to the transcripts,
Kissinger argued that the Chilean military government was no worse
than other Latin American nations and repeatedly voiced concern that
the junta would collapse without U.S. support. "I think the consequences
could be very serious, if we cut them off from military aid,"
Kissinger told his staff during a December 3, 1974,
The transcripts also capture Kissinger disparaging his own State
Department staff for being soft on the human rights issue. In an exchange
with Assistant Secretary for Latin America, William Rogers, on December
3, 1974, for example, Kissinger accuses his staff of "egging
on" Senator Edward Kennedy who was the leading advocate of cutting
assistance to the Pinochet regime on human rights grounds. "How
many of our people are really egging Kennedy on," Kissinger demands
to know. At the beginning of a September 1975 meeting
with Pinochet' foreign minister, Adm. Patricio Carvajal, according
to another transcript, Kissinger told him:
Well, I read the briefing paper for this meeting and it was
nothing but Human Rights. The State Department is made up of people
who have a vocation for the ministry. Because there were no enough
churches for them, they went into the Department of State.
Note: The following documents are in PDF format.
You will need to download and install the free Adobe
Acrobat Reader to view.
White House Audio Tape, President Richard M. Nixon and White House
press secretary Ron Zeigler, March 23, 1972
audio clip is available in several formats:
Windows Media Audio - Broadband (1.1 MB
Windows Media Audio - Dial-up/56kb (298
KB - Streaming)
MP3 - (569 KB - Does not stream)
In this White House tape, President Nixon is recorded on March
23, 1972, speaking by phone to his White House press secretary,
Ron Zeigler about damage control efforts on the first major covert
operations scandal of the 1970s-the ITT papers on Chile. Zeigler
reports on a State Department press conference held earlier in the
afternoon. He tells the president that the key issue was an ITT
memo that stated that in the fall of 1970, U.S. Ambassador Edward
Korry had received a "green light" from the White House
to "do everything short of a Dominican Republic-type action"
to stop Allende. Nixon demands to know how that leaked out, and
then emphatically states that Korry "was instructed"
to do that. The President then scapegoats the Ambassador for failing
to carry out those instructions. Numerous declassified records make
it clear that Nixon and Kissinger explicitly ordered the CIA not
to inform Ambassador Korry of their efforts to instigate a military
coup to keep Allende from assuming office.
White House, SECRET/SENSITIVE Memorandum for the President, "Subject:
NSC Meeting, November 6-Chile," November 5, 1970
This briefing paper, found among thousands of NSC papers recently
declassified by the Nixon Presidential Materials Project at NARA,
reveals Kissinger's forceful attempts to influence Nixon's policy
toward an Allende government prior to a pivotal National Security
Council meeting on Chile. Written two days after Allende's inauguration,
Kissinger emphasizes to Nixon that his election "poses for
us one of the most serious challenges ever faced in this hemisphere."
Nixon's decisions on what to do about it, he informs the President,
"may be the most historic and difficult foreign affairs decision
you will have to make this year." Kissinger lists the "serious
threats" he perceives Allende to pose to U.S. interests in
the region and the world, among them $1 billion in investments that
could be lost, and the precedent-setting "example of a successful
elected Marxist government." The memo notes that Allende will
seek to be: "internationally respectable; move cautiously and
pragmatically; avoid immediate confrontations with us." But
Kissinger attributes this to Allende's "gameplan" to "neutralize"
his political opponents in Chile. Nixon's national security advisor
urges him to overrule the State Department position that the U.S.
does "not have the capability of preventing Allende from consolidating
himself or forcing his failure" and that U.S. influence was
best gained by "maintain[ing] our relationship and our presence
in Chile." Instead Kissinger forcefully recommends a hostile
policy of pressure and opposition, but implemented "quietly
and covertly" for maximum effectiveness. "Contrary to
your usual practice of not making a decision at NSC meetings,"
the memo concludes, "it is essential that you make it crystal
clear where you stand on this issue
.If all concerned do not
understand that you want Allende opposed as strongly as we can,
the result will be a steady drift toward the modus vivendi
Department of State, SECRET/NODIS, "Secretary's Staff Meeting,
October 1, 1973"
At the first staff meeting following Henry Kissinger's confirmation
as Secretary of State, Chile is a key topic. In this transcript,
Assistant Secretary for Latin America, Jack Kubisch, comes to the
meeting from Capitol Hill and reports that legislators are peppering
him with questions about massive atrocities by the new military
regime in Chile. He tells Kissinger that Newsweek magazine
has reported 2700 bodies piled up in the central morgue in Santiago.
"I've been asked: 'How many people have been killed? Is it
true, the rumors we hear,'" Kubisch states. Kissinger responds
by making his policy toward the new Pinochet regime clear. He tells
his staff: "I agree that we should not knock down stories that
later prove to be true, nor should we be in the position of defending
what they're doing in Santiago. But I think we should understand
our policy-that however unpleasant they act, the government is better
for us than Allende was."
Department of State, SECRET/NODIS, "Secretary's Staff Meeting,
October 2, 1973"
In staff meeting the next day, Assistant Secretary Jack Kubisch
asks Secretary Kissinger if Pinochet's new foreign minister should
be invited to an upcoming diplomatic luncheon in New York City with
other Latin American ministers. "Your behavior with him will
be watched very close by the others to see whether or not you are
blessing the new regime in Chile, or whether it is just protocol,"
Kubisch advises Kissinger. "What will be the test? How will
they judge?," Kissinger asks. "I suppose if you give him
warm abrazzos, sitting next to you, and huddling in the corner,
that will all be reported back to their governments. [Laughter.],"
Department of State, SECRET, "The Secretary's 8:00 a.m. Regional
Staff Meeting," December 3, 1974
At this staff meeting, Secretary Kissinger spends considerable
time discussing Congressional efforts, led by Senator Edward Kennedy,
to restrict U.S. military assistance to the Pinochet regime. The
transcript records Kissinger's vehement opposition to such legislative
initiatives, on the grounds that they are unfair to the Chilean
military government, could lead to its collapse, and set a dangerous
precedent for cutting assistance to other unsavory governments the
Ford Administration is supporting. "Well, am I wrong that this
sort of thing is likely to finish off that government?" he
demands to know. Later he asks: "Is this government worse than
the Allende government? Is human rights more severely threatened
by this government than Allende?" According to Kissinger, "the
worse crime of this government is that it is pro-American."
In response, Assistant Secretary for Latin America, William Rogers
informs the Secretary, "in terms of freedom of association,
Allende didn't close down the opposition party. In terms of freedom
of the press, Allende didn't close down all the newspapers."
Department of State, SECRET, "The Secretary's Principals and
Regionals Staff Meeting," December 20, 1974
At this staff meeting, the discussion of the State Department's
response to Senator Kennedy's efforts to curtail assistance continues.
Kissinger tells his staff that he won't tolerate concessions to
Congress on human rights and again expresses concern that the Pinochet
regime will collapse. "We can't acquiesce on that, and I have
to talk to the President," he states. "We cannot get into
that business while I'm here, of behaving that way, of making a
deal with a Senator that we know is against the national interest.
You know the only possible outcome of this can be an extreme left
wing government in Chile or driving the Chilean Government sort
of toward the Arabs."
Department of State, SECRET, "The Secretary's Regionals and Principals'
Staff Meeting," December 23, 1974
During this meeting, Kissinger again presses his staff to resist
efforts by Congress to encroach on executive branch prerogatives
and curtail assistance to the Pinochet regime. He calls cutting
military aid to Chile "insane." His Assistant Secretary,
William Rogers, is left to explain the political realities of the
human rights movement to him. "It is insane. But, Mr. Secretary,
it does reflect an extraordinary strong feeling amongst the Congress,
as you well know." The human rights issue, Rogers reiterates
later in the meeting "has caught the imagination up on the
Hill, as you well know, Mr. Secretary, and amongst the American
people." Kissinger protests that if Congress is able to curtail
assistance to Chile, it will move to cut aid to other countries
like South Korea and Turkey. "There isn't going to be any end
to it," he states, and "we are going to wind up in an
unbelievable precarious position, in which no country can afford
to tie up with us
." He continues: "It is a problem
of the whole foreign policy that is being pulled apart, pulling
out thread by thread, under one pretext or another."
Department of State, Memorandum of Conversation, Secretary's Meeting
with Foreign Minister Carvajal, September 29, 1975
This transcript records a meeting between Secretary Kissinger and
Pinochet's foreign minister, Patricio Carvajal, following Chile's
decision to cancel a visit by the United Nations Human Rights Commission
investigating human rights crimes. Kissinger begins the meeting
by disparaging his staff "who have a vocation for the ministry"
for focusing on human rights in the briefing papers prepared for
the meeting. He tells Carvajal that condemnation of the Pinochet
regime's human rights record is "a total injustice," but
that "somewhat visible" efforts by the regime to alleviate
the situation would be useful in changing Congressional attitudes.
"Our point of view is if you do something, let us know so we
can use it with Congress." Kissinger, Carvajal, and Assistant
Secretary Rogers then discuss U.S. efforts to expedite Ex-Im Bank
credits and multilateral loans to Chile as well as cash sales of
military equipment. At the end of the meeting, Kissinger voices
support for the regime's idea to host the June 1976 OAS meeting
in Santiago as a way of increasing Pinochet's prestige and improving
Chile's negative image.