Phone Transcripts Are the Ultimate Anti-Aphrodisiac

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The Indianapolis Star reports that recently released snippets from Nixon-era phone conversations with Henry Kissinger include the following:

U.S.-Soviet tensions were peaking over the Arab-Israeli war, and British Prime Minister Edward Heath's office called the White House just before 8 p.m. to ask to speak with Nixon.

Kissinger: "Can we tell them no? When I talked to the president, he was loaded."
Brent Scowcroft, Kissinger's assistant: "We could tell him the president is not available and perhaps he can call you."

Kissinger said Nixon would be available in the morning….

Kissinger's familiar relationship with the longtime ambassador from the Soviet Union, Anatoly Dobrynin, was apparent in their conversations.

Dobrynin: "I heard that you were sitting with a very nice girl . . . and I guess I have her picture?"
Kissinger: "Oh, yes?"
Dobrynin: "In the calendar. I think she was on this Playboy calendar."
Kissinger: "Oh-h-h-h-h, you're a dirty old man."
Dobrynin: ". . . she's a real nice girl."
Kissinger: ". . . she's very attractive. I hope she isn't a nice girl."

The Wash Post version of the story includes this more serious and disturbing exchange:

The transcripts include several episodes that appear at odds with Kissinger's version of events, such as his claim that Washington had nothing to do with the September 1973 military coup in Chile that toppled the democratically elected, leftist government of Salvador Allende. "We didn't do it," Kissinger told Nixon, "I mean we helped them. [unintelligible] created the conditions as great as possible."

Peter Kornbluh, a Latin America specialist at the National Security Archive, said the passage appeared to mark an acknowledgment by Kissinger that U.S. policy paved the way for the coup that brought Augusto Pinochet to power. "It's diametrically opposed to the account he provides in his memoirs," Kornbluh said.

There are some 20,000 phone transcripts that Kissinger gave to the Library of Congress in 1976, stipulating that they remain closed until five years after he croaked. He turned them over to the National Archives in 2002, after legal action by the National Security Archive, the anti-government-secrecy nonprofit mentioned above (yes, the name is confusing in this and every context). After vetting them for security and privacy concerns, almost all were released yesterday, says the Post.

The National Security Archive site is well worth killing a few hours at. Check it out here. Like The Smoking Gun and The Memory Hole, it's a treasure trove of weird, wild, and interesting links that range from documents and photos of the fateful meeting between Nixon and Elvis Presley to an in-depth look at the international context of the Cold War to exposes of Pakistan's immense aid to the Taliban and "adolescent mujahid."

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  1. Allende, through woeful mismanagement and a failure to reach out, brought his government down around his feet. It’s one of the cherished myths of the Left that not only was he a great man, but that the coup wouldn’t have happened without the CIA. We knew he was going down and we didn’t stop it, sure, but we didn’t cause it either.

  2. Larry,

    Actually, Kissinger and Nixon both put tremendous economic pressure on Chile; Kissinger wanted to make Chile “scream” according to the DCI. This really has nothing to do with whether I like Allende or not; the reality is that the U.S. did what it could in its power to topple the fellow from power – that many in Chile wanted something similar to happen is really beside the point.

    That doesn’t mean that the U.S. was omniscient or wholly controlled the situation there; indeed, its evident that while Kissinger and Nixon wanted Allende out of power, they didn’t neccessarily want him dead at the same time. However, they could have predicted the political murder that would follow such a coup; and they bear some of the blame for such.

  3. Why is it so difficult for Peter Kornbluh to understand the distinction between general economic sanctions against Chile and specific planning of Pinochet’s coup? The National Security Archive has been looking for evidence of the latter for years. They haven’t found it and they won’t, because Pinochet was taking his orders from the Chilean congress, not the US. That is consistent with what Kissinger has said all along.

    As for the efficacy of the US’s sanctions, I don’t believe that economic sanctions are primarily responsible for Zimbabwe’s sorry state over the past 5 years, and I don’t believe they were responsible for Chile’s economic collapse then. If you look at the historical record, economic sanctions rarely destroy a country’s economy by themselves, but hyperinflating the currency and telling the most profitable business owners to take a hike always does the trick.

  4. Given the recent discussion at Hit & Run about torture, the following page at NSArchive is worth a look:

    http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB122/index.htm

  5. …for dolphins.

  6. What was “fateful” about the Presley-Nixon meeting? (Other than that I have a copy of the famous photo on my wall…?)

  7. fyodor,

    Well, the joke is that it was a classified document; as such it demonstrates the “classify everything that is not nailed” culture we’ve seen in Washington since the start of the Cold War; the passage of FOIA, as well as executive orders by the Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton and Bush II administrations were meant to curb such.

  8. I can’t wait till that Christopher Hitchens hears all this. He’s going to hit the roof!

  9. GG,

    Oh, so it was meant ironically? My bad then. And are you saying that photo had been classified?? Yow….

  10. fyodor,

    Yes, it was classified at one point. I can’t recall whether it was “Top Secret,” “Secret” or merely “Confidential” though. That was the classification scheme used by Clinton in E.O. 12,598 at least (adopted in 1995), and as far as I know this scheme was a hold-over from at least the LBJ administration. There is a nice essay on the subject of classification by a Arvin S. Quist that can be at the following URL:

    http://www.fas.org/sgp/library/quist

  11. I never did like Kissinger.

  12. Well, we know that Kissinger helped to arrange for the kidnapping of General Rene Schneider, a conservative anti-communist, who also believed and upheld the Chilean constitution. The idea was, with him out of the way, a coup would be much easier. After the kidnappers killed Schneider when he resisted, we paid them off.

    So, yes, we did help overthrow the democratically elected government of Chile (just like we did in many countries throughout the world whose governments refused to do things exactly the way the U.S. wanted them to).

  13. Providing teenage mujahadeen may not have the dark motivation generally imputed. Dark motivation, yes. But perhaps not the one that comes first to mind.

    If I were a despotic potentate in a turbulent country, I’d take every opportunity to “outsource” violent, fanatical young men too.

    If the Taliban were crazy enough to ask for excess religious nuts, Pakistan would be crazy to stand in their way.

  14. Um, actually, any desire to get rid of Allende probably hade more to do with his being a Marxist and providing a toe-hold for communism in South America. Remember the Monroe Doctrine as well as Cold War policy? “Refused to do things exactly the way the US wanted them to” is an absurd summation of the issue.

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