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What Even Woodward and Bernstein Can’t Say Out Loud: Nixon Wrecked the Paris Peace Talks

The recent retraversal by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of their Watergate reportage is a welcome, albeit flawed, corrective to the decades of efforts by Nixon and his cheerleaders to rewrite history.

I say “flawed” because it is not entirely correct. For example, there is this passage:

On June 17, 1971 — exactly one year before the Watergate break-in — Nixon met in the Oval Office with his chief of staff, H.R. “Bob” Haldeman, and national security adviser Henry Kissinger. At issue was a file about former president Lyndon Johnson’s handling of the 1968 bombing halt in Vietnam.

“You can blackmail Johnson on this stuff, and it might be worth doing,” Haldeman said, according to the tape of the meeting.

“Yeah,” Kissinger said, “but Bob and I have been trying to put the damn thing together for three years.” They wanted the complete story of Johnson’s actions.

“Huston swears to God there’s a file on it at Brookings,” Haldeman said.

“Bob,” Nixon said, “now you remember Huston’s plan? Implement it. .?.?. I mean, I want it implemented on a thievery basis. God damn it, get in and get those files. Blow the safe and get it.”


For reasons that have never been made clear, the break-in apparently was not carried out.

Now, Nixon did order — repeatedly — that the safe at the Brookings Institute be blown and the file stolen. The file, however, a) wasn’t there anymore, and b) didn’t just contain what Woodward and Bernstein says it did, but something much more dangerous as far as Nixon was concerned. As Robert Parry reports:

In the article, Woodward and Bernstein take note of the Oval Office discussion on June 17, 1971, regarding Nixon’s eagerness to break into Brookings in search of the elusive file, but they miss its significance referring to it as a file about Johnson’s “handling of the 1968 bombing halt in Vietnam.”

That bombing halt – ordered by Johnson on Oct. 31, 1968 – was part of a larger initiative to achieve a breakthrough with North Vietnam to end the war, which had already claimed more than 30,000 American lives and countless Vietnamese. To thwart the peace talks, Nixon’s campaign went behind Johnson’s back to convince the South Vietnamese government to boycott those talks and thus deny Democrat Hubert Humphrey a last-minute surge in support, which likely would have cost Nixon the election.

Rostow’s “The ‘X’ Envelope,” which was finally opened in 1994 and is now largely declassified, reveals that Johnson had come to know a great deal about Nixon’s peace-talk sabotage from FBI wiretaps. In addition, tapes of presidential phone conversations, which were released in 2008, show Johnson complaining to key Republicans about the gambit and even confronting Nixon personally.

In other words, the file that Nixon so desperately wanted to find was not primarily about how Johnson handled the 1968 bombing halt but rather how Nixon’s campaign obstructed the peace talks by giving assurances to South Vietnamese leaders that Nixon would get them a better result.

Let me repeat that last part, so it sinks in:

In other words, the file that Nixon so desperately wanted to find was not primarily about how Johnson handled the 1968 bombing halt but rather how Nixon’s campaign obstructed the peace talks by giving assurances to South Vietnamese leaders that Nixon would get them a better result.

That’s right, folks: Richard Milhous Nixon, our thirty-seventh president, ordered and committed high treason. His henchmen: Anna Chan Chennault and Henry Kissinger.

Ironically, Nixon would — much as South Vietnamese leaders wished but the American public did not — escalate and expand the war, illegally bombing Cambodia as well as North Vietnam, before finally, in 1972, agreeing to a peace settlement that was in essence the same as the one Johnson had been on the verge of working out in 1968 — four years, 22,000 American lives, and over a million Vietnamese lives earlier.

If the contents of the “X” Envelope had been released in 1971 as Nixon had feared, not only would his presidency have been put in jeopardy, but — if the full letter of the law had been pursued against him as vigorously as Republicans pursued Bill Clinton for the non-scandals of Whitewater and Lewinsky — his life might have been as well. Article Three, Section Three of the United States Constitution states the following:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court. The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

And what is the penalty for persons found guilty of treason? This:

Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

No wonder Nixon was so anxious to find that file.

Now, note well — this is not something that was invented out of thin air by a conspiracy theorist. It is all quite well documented. On May 14, 1973, Rostow typed a three-page “memorandum for the record” summarizing the secret file that Johnson had amassed on the Nixon campaign’s sabotage of the Vietnam peace talks in Paris, sabotage done to secure for Nixon the 1968 election victory; you can read Rostow’s memo here, here, and here, courtesy of Consortium News. The opening and first paragraph of the memo, shown in the picture above, reads as follows: “The attached file contains the information available to me and (I believe) the bulk of the information available to President Johnson on the activities of Mrs. Chennault and other Republicans just before the presidential election of 1968.”

Yet there has been not a breath of this news in any US establishment paper, radio or TV network — and yet the establishment media goes out of its way to transmit bogus GOP-launched smears against Democrats, such as the “Chinagate/Buddhist Temple” affair whose most legitimately scandalous (and thus relatively underreported) part is the fact that James Smith, the Republican FBI agent at the heart of it, was having an affair with Katrina “Parlor Maid” Leung, longtime California Republican Party activist and even-longer-time spy for China.

Something to show to your FOX-watching friends and neighbors who still think the rest of the media is somehow “liberal”.

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