Nixon’s Vietnam Treachery
Richard M. Nixon always denied it: to David Frost, to historians and to Lyndon B. Johnson, who had the strongest suspicions and the most cause for outrage at his successor’s rumored treachery. To them all, Nixon insisted that he had not sabotaged Johnson’s 1968 peace initiative to bring the war in Vietnam to an early conclusion. “My God. I would never do anything to encourage” South Vietnam “not to come to the table,” Nixon told Johnson, in a conversation captured on the White House taping system.
理查德·M·尼克松(Richard M. Nixon)一直否认此事，无论是对大卫·弗罗斯特(David Frost)，对历史学者，还是对林登·B·约翰逊(Lyndon B. Johnson)——后者抱有最强烈的疑虑，也最有理由因为其继任者传闻中的背叛而怒火中烧。面对这些人，尼克松一直坚称，他没有破坏约翰逊为尽快结束越南战争而提出的和平倡议。“天啊。我绝不会做任何事去怂恿”南越“别坐到谈判桌前”，尼克松在一次被白宫录音系统录下的谈话中告诉约翰逊。
Now we know Nixon lied. A newfound cache of notes left by H. R. Haldeman, his closest aide, shows that Nixon directed his campaign’s efforts to scuttle the peace talks, which he feared could give his opponent, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, an edge in the 1968 election. On Oct. 22, 1968, he ordered Haldeman to “monkey wrench” the initiative.
现在我们知道尼克松撒了谎。新发现的其心腹助手H·R·霍尔德曼(H. R. Haldeman)留下的笔记显示，尼克松指示自己的竞选团队对和平谈判进行了破坏，因为他担心相关谈判会让他的竞争对手、副总统休伯特·H·汉弗莱(Hubert H. Humphrey)在1968年的大选中占据优势。1968年10月22日，他命令霍尔德曼给和平倡议“捣乱”。
The 37th president has been enjoying a bit of a revival recently, as his achievements in foreign policy and the landmark domestic legislation he signed into law draw favorable comparisons to the presidents (and president-elect) that followed. A new, $15 million face-lift at the Nixon presidential library, while not burying the Watergate scandals, spotlights his considerable record of accomplishments.
Haldeman’s notes return us to the dark side. Amid the reappraisals, we must now weigh apparently criminal behavior that, given the human lives at stake and the decade of carnage that followed in Southeast Asia, may be more reprehensible than anything Nixon did in Watergate.
Nixon had entered the fall campaign with a lead over Humphrey, but the gap was closing that October. Henry A. Kissinger, then an outside Republican adviser, had called, alerting Nixon that a deal was in the works: If Johnson would halt all bombing of North Vietnam, the Soviets pledged to have Hanoi engage in constructive talks to end a war that had already claimed 30,000 American lives.
秋季的竞选活动开始时，尼克松领先于汉弗莱，但到了10月，两人之间的差距缩小。时任共和党外部顾问的亨利·A·基辛格(Henry A. Kissinger)打电话给尼克松，提醒他一项协议正在酝酿过程中：苏联承诺，如果约翰逊停止对北越的一切轰炸，便让河内参与有建设性的谈判，以便结束战争。当时，那场战争已经夺去了三万美国人的生命。
But Nixon had a pipeline to Saigon, where the South Vietnamese president, Nguyen Van Thieu, feared that Johnson would sell him out. If Thieu would stall the talks, Nixon could portray Johnson’s actions as a cheap political trick. The conduit was Anna Chennault, a Republican doyenne and Nixon fund-raiser, with connections across Asia.
但尼克松和西贡方面有联络渠道。在那里，南越总统阮文绍(Nguyen Van Thieu)担心约翰逊会出卖自己。如果阮文绍拖延谈判，尼克松便可将约翰逊的行动说成是廉价的政治把戏。这个渠道就是陈香梅(Anna Chennault)，一位共和党资深人物，尼克松的资金筹集人，在亚洲各地都有关系。
“! Keep Anna Chennault working on” South Vietnam, Haldeman scrawled, recording Nixon’s orders. “Any other way to monkey wrench it? Anything RN can do.”
Nixon told Haldeman to have Rose Mary Woods, the candidate’s personal secretary, contact another nationalist Chinese figure — the businessman Louis Kung — and have him press Thieu as well. “Tell him hold firm,” Nixon said.
尼克松让霍尔德曼吩咐自己的私人秘书罗丝·玛丽·伍兹(Rose Mary Woods)联系另一名支持国民党的华人、商人孔令杰(Louis Kung)，并让他也向阮文绍施压。“让他坚定立场，”尼克松说。
Nixon also sought help from Chiang Kai-shek, the president of Taiwan. And he ordered Haldeman to have his vice-presidential candidate, Spiro T. Agnew, threaten the C.I.A. director, Richard Helms. Helms’s hopes of keeping his job under Nixon depended on his pliancy, Agnew was to say. “Tell him we want the truth — or he hasn’t got the job,” Nixon said.
尼克松还向台湾总统蒋介石寻求帮助。此外，他命令霍尔德曼让副总统候选人斯皮罗·T·阿格纽(Spiro T. Agnew)威胁中情局(CIA)局长理查德·赫尔姆斯(Richard Helms)。阿格纽要向赫尔姆斯传达的意思是，他在尼克松上台后保住工作的希望取决于他的灵活性。“告诉他我们想知道真相，否则他就保不住工作，”尼克松说。
Throughout his life, Nixon feared disclosure of this skulduggery. “I did nothing to undercut them,” he told Frost in their 1977 interviews. “As far as Madame Chennault or any number of other people,” he added, “I did not authorize them and I had no knowledge of any contact with the South Vietnamese at that point, urging them not to.” Even after Watergate, he made it a point of character. “I couldn’t have done that in conscience.”
Nixon had cause to lie. His actions appear to violate federal law, which prohibits private citizens from trying to “defeat the measures of the United States.” His lawyers fought throughout Nixon’s life to keep the records of the 1968 campaign private. The broad outline of “the Chennault affair” would dribble out over the years. But the lack of evidence of Nixon’s direct involvement gave pause to historians and afforded his loyalists a defense.
Time has yielded Nixon’s secrets. Haldeman’s notes were opened quietly at the presidential library in 2007, where I came upon them in my research for a biography of the former president. They contain other gems, like Haldeman’s notations of a promise, made by Nixon to Southern Republicans, that he would retreat on civil rights and “lay off pro-Negro crap” if elected president. There are notes from Nixon’s 1962 California gubernatorial campaign, in which he and his aides discuss the need to wiretap political foes.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that, absent Nixon, talks would have proceeded, let alone ended the war. But Johnson and his advisers, at least, believed in their mission and its prospects for success.
When Johnson got word of Nixon’s meddling, he ordered the F.B.I. to track Chennault’s movements. She “contacted Vietnam Ambassador Bui Diem,” one report from the surveillance noted, “and advised him that she had received a message from her boss … to give personally to the ambassador. She said the message was … ‘Hold on. We are gonna win. … Please tell your boss to hold on.’ ”
In a conversation with the Republican senator Everett Dirksen, the minority leader, Johnson lashed out at Nixon. “I’m reading their hand, Everett,” Johnson told his old friend. “This is treason.”
“I know,” Dirksen said mournfully.
Johnson’s closest aides urged him to unmask Nixon’s actions. But on a Nov. 4 conference call, they concluded that they could not go public because, among other factors, they lacked the “absolute proof,” as Defense Secretary Clark Clifford put it, of Nixon’s direct involvement.
Nixon was elected president the next day.