Transcript of meeting, June 2 1972
rating: +73+x

OVAL OFFICE – WHITE HOUSE – WASHINGTON
JUNE 2, 1972 3:27 TO 3:55 P.M.
IN ATTENDANCE:
RICHARD NIXON (POTUS)
HENRY KISSINGER (ASST. FOR NAT’L SECURITY AFFAIRS)
GEN. ALEXANDER HAIG (DEPUTY ASST. FOR NAT’L SECURITY AFFAIRS)
AGENT GREGORY SACHS (GOC)
ADM. THOMAS MOORER (CHAIRMAN, JCS)
GEN. JOHN C. MEYER (COMMANDER, SAC)


NIXON – Tom, John, thank you both for coming over.

MOORER – Thank you, Mr. President. Welcome back and congratulations on the summit.

MEYER – Mr. President, I want to add my congratulations. Frankly, sir, the ABM and SALT treaties are going to make my life easier.

NIXON – It’s kind of funny you would say that, John, because if the god-damn peaceniks at the New York Times had had their way, we would have told the Russians that we were ready to get rid of all of your bombers and all of your missiles, and then there wouldn’t be anything left for you to do but play golf every day. But, uh, the reason I asked you gentlemen to see me here … uh, Al, where’s the binder?

HAIG – Here, sir.

NIXON – Gentlemen, based on some information that came to light, uh, before and during my trip to Moscow, we have a supplement to the targeting priority list for our bombers and ICBMs.

MOORER – A minute, if you’ll forgive me, Mr. President. Who is that guy?

SACHS – Admiral, I’m … [unintelligible]

NIXON – Don’t worry about it, Tom. He’s OK.

MEYER – Mr. President, with respect sir, the Pentagon just usually cables …

KISSINGER – [unintelligible] only a contingency …

MEYER – [unintelligible] … orders over.

NIXON – I realize that this is a departure from your regular protocol. But I wanted to go over this with you in person because this is an unusual case, and I wanted to make sure that there is no mistake. To make sure that you didn’t think there was a transcription error or something. Hank, can you start?

KISSINGER – Case COLD HARPER. How you people come up with these names I don’t know. These are the instructions to SAC if the balloon goes up on Case COLD HARPER. Here is the list of the bomber wings and the ICBM sites in the usual format and here are the coordinates of the target. You will …

MEYER – I don’t understand, it’s the same coordinates all the way down the list …

MOORER – Some of these assets, sir, Anderson AFB, uh, that's in Guam, and Clark is in the Philippines. How can they even reach …

MEYER – Hold it, yeah, you’re right, Tom. What is this?

HAIG – [unintelligible ] … if Case COLD HARPER goes hot …

NIXON – See, Hank, this is why I wanted them here in person. Admiral, general, this is not a mistake. If we have to call COLD HARPER, then, uh, then this location here is the target.

MEYER – [unintelligible] … somewhere in the Arctic Ocean.

MOORER – Seventy-three point such and such north by fifty four point such and such east. Let me check the map … It’s not in the ocean, it's the big Russian island here, Novaya Zemlya.

MEYER – … that fifty-megaton job that Khrushchev dropped back in sixty-one? Tsar Bomba I think they called it? I think that was where they dropped it.

HAIG – … show you some U-2 photographs of the location.

MEYER – So we would be bombing a test range? I don’t …

KISSINGER – [unintelligible] … not exactly a testing facility.

MOORER – I’m sorry?

KISSINGER – I said that it’s not a testing facility. A garbage incinerator would be a better analogy. If you want to be technical, it’s not even a Soviet facility, strictly speaking.

SACHS – Dr. Kissinger, I don't think …

HAIG – Mr. President, I should point out that General Meyer isn’t on the list, and Admiral Moorer …

NIXON – Al, they have to know enough to be able to do their jobs.

HAIG – Sir, I agree of course but [unintelligible]

MEYER – What list? Forgive me for not being in on the news that there’s a clearance level that is higher than the Commander of Strategic Air Command, but that guy next to Dr. Kissinger who I don’t even recognize …

NIXON – I’m going to tell them …

HAIG – Mr. President, I really [unintelligible]

NIXON – … no, not everything. Just what they need …

MOORER – [unintelligible] a little out of the loop …

NIXON – Admiral, General, it will have to suffice for me to say that there is a… there is an object, let’s say, at this place on that island. These are contingency targeting instructions. If I … if the Commander in Chief, gives the command to activate COLD HARPER, which would only be done if Christ help us the trigger condition had been satisfied, then …

MEYER – … then that site becomes the priority target.

NIXON – … the only target. It is not just the priority target, it’s the only target.

MOORER – Sir, you have us sending three, four, wait … all, all of our bomber wings, and …all of our intercontinental missiles …

KISSINGER – That’s correct, Admiral …

MOORER – … targeting just this one location …

MEYER – Sir, the way we run our bombers, when we hit something once with these payloads, the target is gone, so I don’t see …

MOORER – … not even LeMay would have … [unintelligible]

MEYER – … [unintelligible] would have to be a one-way trip for a lot of these boys, at this range …

NIXON – Look, Tom, John, I'm satisfied that it’s necessary.

MOORER – Whoever is there, you must really want us to get up there in a hell of a hurry and kill it.

HAIG – If it comes to that. I sure as hell hope not, since a lot of the guys up there are ours. Well, his, at any rate.

MEYER – So who the hell are you guys, then?

SACHS – We're keeping an eye on the … object, as the President put it, until we can come up with a satisfactory way to get rid of it.

MOORER – So this is your plan for disposing of the … whatever it is?

NIXON – This is Plan B. Plan A is just holding the line, so to speak, for as long as they can in the way that they're doing it now.

MEYER – With respect, sir, I don’t see how we can drill this, with everything that has to be put into place for Linebacker …

KISSINGER – General, first of all, it has been determined for the sake of operational security that the existence of COLD HARPER itself is Foxtrot-level from which it follows that there can be no drills. Nobody, not even SAC command staff, who have not been designated Foxtrot-level are cleared for this. If the balloon goes up, you just do what you have to do to aim your planes and target your missiles in accordance with these instructions. Secondly, if …

NIXON – Where Henry is going with this is that if we’re in COLD HARPER, then fuck Linebacker, fuck South Vietnam, it isn’t going to matter.

MOORER – But we would no longer have our nuclear deterrence against the Soviets …

HAIG – It doesn’t matter because they will have already …

NIXON – I should have told Al not to bother showing you those photos, because if we do COLD HARPER then the location isn’t going to look like this by the time your boys get there, John. It will already be hot because the Russians, who are closer, obviously, will have already hit the location with everything that they’ve got.

MEYER – The Soviets would, uh, would bomb themselves?

KISSINGER – Well, it was their own idea …

SACHS – Technically, they’d be bombing my people, but under the circumstances that would hardly matter.

MEYER – I have to ask because I really don’t know the answer. You’re on our side, right? I mean, you’re not a Russian or …

SACHS – Athens, Georgia sir. Go Bulldogs.

MEYER – This whole thing just doesn’t make any damn sense …

MOORER — We would hit this thing with our whole nuclear triad after it's already nothing but a smoking irradiated crater from what the Soviets have?

KISSINGER – Not the whole triad, Admiral. Just the missiles and bombers. The subs …

NIXON – The boomers we will need for Noah, which I'll go over with you and Elmo Zumwalt in another briefing in a few days.

MEYER – NOAA as in the weather forecasting people?

KISSINGER – Noah as in ark. Don't you remember from Sunday School? The animals march in, two by two …

HAIG – [unintelligible] …seeds and frozen embryos, for the most part … [unintelligible] … offload the missiles to make room …

NIXON – We’re not ready to talk about Noah yet. I want to get this targeting thing settled. Admiral Moorer, General Meyer, I assure you that I have thought this through. General, you have the order. Thank you both for coming.

MOORER – Thank you, Mr. President. [ADM. MOORER AND GEN. MEYER LEAVE THE MEETING.]

NIXON – That settles that bit. Satisfied, Agent Sachs?

SACHS – Yes, Mr. President. I’ll report back to the … [unintelligible]

NIXON – Yes, thank you for coming. Please tell your people … tell them that I appreciate the fine work they’re doing.

SACHS – Of course, sir. Thank you, Mr. President. [AGENT SACHS LEAVES THE MEETING]

NIXON – Thanks, Al. Can Henry and I have the room?

HAIG – Yes sir, Mr. President. [GENERAL HAIG LEAVES THE MEETING]

NIXON – Should we get Ambassador Dobrynin over here to tell him? Or do you want to talk to Gromyko directly?

KISSINGER – I’ll call Gromyko. I’ll call him as soon as I get back over to the Executive Office Building.

NIXON – Our boys here … Henry, it wears on you, how they don’t see the big picture.

KISSINGER – To be fair, Mr. President, apart from the GOC and Foxtrot, and whatever the Soviets call their version of Foxtrot, they don’t know …

NIXON – They don’t know. And it makes you kind of jealous.

KISSINGER – When you had told me, I didn’t really appreciate it. I didn’t, until Sachs and Marshal Yakubovsky took me up there last week and showed me…

NIXON – I’m afraid that it will stay with you …

KISSINGER – [unintelligible] … not believe it. Even after the number of times they’ve dropped bombs on it. Even the Tsar Bomba barely … [unintelligible]

NIXON – … including those times in '64 and '65 when Johnson had to give them some of our bombs to use because they had run out of their own …

KISSINGER – … [unintelligible] still see it every time I close my eyes.

NIXON – They brought me up there and showed it to me when I went to Russia under Ike in 1959. This was a couple of days after the Kitchen Debate. … Ike knew, I'm certain of it. He asked me to go over there. I guess he wanted to see whether I was ready. Hand me the whiskey?

KISSINGER – Let me pour us each one.

NIXON – [laughs] I'm going to need a taller one than that, uh, just give me the bottle back. You know, I didn’t even use to drink very much before that trip. But you do what it takes and you soldier on …

KISSINGER – Those men at the site, they have to be there every day.

NIXON – [unintelligible] … the god-damn bravest bastards in the whole world. Especially that guy, uh, Vassily, with the eyepatch. Was he still there?

KISSINGER – You had told me, and I asked about him. They told me that he’s still on the books as being assigned there, but they keep him sedated most of the time.

NIXON – That’s a shame. They told me that he had been through Stalingrad, and Berlin, but I can’t … I don’t think I’m surprised.

KISSINGER – [unintelligible]

NIXON – You know, knowing that things like that … [unintelligible] … puts the rest of it into perspective, China and Vietnam and all that.

KISSINGER – [unintelligible] … what’s important, in the big picture.

NIXON – The big picture, exactly. And that’s why it’s so god-damn frustrating. Those fuckers on the Hill and those fucking screaming college kids. If they knew the kinds of things that we, what the GOC and our other boys were doing, they’d have a god-damn parade every day. They'd build a god-damn statue, they'd say thank you, they … [unintelligible]

KISSINGER – At least Brezhnev and Gromyko will have something that they can be grateful to you for, for a change. The Russians did admit that they needed our help …

NIXON – Speaking of gratitude, I’ll tell you again, whatever we might say about the Russians, at least they, they and the GOC, are keeping that thing in its box. … [unintelligible] you think that COLD HARPER will be enough to deal with it, if it gets out?

KISSINGER – Sachs had told me that it … his people think … [unintelligible] … least bad alternative, so to speak. Now as far as what those other bad alternatives were, you remember that I told you about that cable, from Dr. [unintelligible] … who said they thought they had a way to contain [unintelligible] …

NIXON – I almost can't think of a worse approach than to let those egghead fuckers get their hands on …

KISSINGER – If COLD HARPER isn't enough, well, it wouldn’t matter to you and me. It’s not like we’re going to be on Noah’s Ark.

NIXON – What is it with you Jews and the gallows humor?

KISSINGER – Mr. President, there have been too many times when it’s all that we have left.

NIXON – Yeah, well we’re all in that boat, Hank.


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