Monday, February 22, 2010

Alexander Haig's Dark Side

Alexander Haig, right, with Henry Kissinger in 2006. (Photo: Reuters)

February 21, 2010
Tom Shachtman
The Huffington Post (USA)

Dispatched to Phnom Penh, Haig exceeded Nixon's instructions and told Lon Nol that the U.S. would continue to fight in Cambodia even after Congress had expressly forbidden further American incursions there and Nixon had agreed to that restriction. Visiting Vietnam to bring back honest reports of the war's progress, Haig returned with rosy ones that belied what soldiers in the field said to him. Jumped over hundreds of generals so that Nixon could appoint him Vice-Chief of Staff of the Army, Haig was in that job only a few months before being brought back to the White House in May 1973 as chief of staff. Thus began what Colodny and I call "The Haig Administration."
Former Secretary of State Alexander Haig is now posthumously being recast as the quintessential soldier-patriot. The truth is, he had a dark side: wiretapping for Richard Nixon, facilitating the operations of a military spy ring that stole classified documents from the White House, sabotaging peace negotiations over Vietnam and détente with the USSR, and unduly hastening Nixon's exit from office. Haig is most lauded as the man who, according to conventional wisdom, held the presidency together during the depths of Watergate. But that evaluation obscures Haig's true role in the Nixon White House.

He began to come to prominence in 1968 when Fritz Kraemer, who had helped Haig rise within the Pentagon, recommended him to another protégé, Henry Kissinger, as Kissinger's military advisor on the Nixon National Security Council. Haig shared Kraemer's militarist, simplistic, anti-Communist, anti-diplomacy view of the world and of America's place in it.

At the NSC, even before Haig finished elbowing rivals out of the way to become Kissinger's deputy, he was up to his eyeballs in questionable activities, submitting the names of targets for the wiretapping of newsmen and NSC and Pentagon staffers, and reading the resulting wiretap logs, though he later denied involvement or said he had done everything at Nixon's request. Nixon had no reason to think of tapping Secretary of Defense aide Robert Pursley, but Haig had been butting heads with Pursley.

Haig quickly learned how to curry favor with Nixon: by feeding the president's need to be bellicose. The White House tapes reveal Haig as the ultimate sycophant, urging Nixon to smite the enemy in Vietnam, unleash the bombs, stand tough against the Soviets, and, not incidentally, to keep Kissinger in his place -- all in the violent, pusillanimous language that philosopher Lionel Rubinoff so aptly labeled "the pornography of power." Nixon rewarded Haig with one star, two stars, four stars.

What has not been generally understood until the recent publication of The Forty Years War, by Len Colodny and me, is that despite Nixon's attention and assistance, Haig consistently undermined the president, primarily because of his antagonism toward what he saw as Nixon's radical foreign policies. Haig channeled Kraemer's views that diplomacy was useless and détente a farce, that the Russians could never be trusted, that the Chinese were playing us, and that the war in Vietnam could be won on the battlefield if only Nixon would stop withdrawing 10,000 troops a month.

Furthering the militarist agenda, Haig facilitated the operations of a military spy ring that stole classified national security documents from Kissinger and from the National Security Council, and therefore from the president, and conveyed them to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the purpose of slowing the détente express. The JCS leaked some classified information to the press, embarrassing Nixon and coming close to capsizing U.S. policy toward the India and Pakistan, then at war with each other. On December 21, 1971, when the stunned Nixon learned of the existence of the spy ring, he labeled it "a federal offense of the highest order." For political reasons, he decided not to prosecute anyone for it; and, oblivious to Haig's involvement because of a bureaucratic slip-up, gave him more and more responsibilities.

Haig, for his part, fought successfully through the remaining years of the Nixon Administration to keep secret his involvement in that espionage.

Dispatched to Phnom Penh, Haig exceeded Nixon's instructions and told Lon Nol that the U.S. would continue to fight in Cambodia even after Congress had expressly forbidden further American incursions there and Nixon had agreed to that restriction. Visiting Vietnam to bring back honest reports of the war's progress, Haig returned with rosy ones that belied what soldiers in the field said to him. Jumped over hundreds of generals so that Nixon could appoint him Vice-Chief of Staff of the Army, Haig was in that job only a few months before being brought back to the White House in May 1973 as chief of staff. Thus began what Colodny and I call "The Haig Administration."

As we document in our book, Haig returned to the White House with a secret to protect and an agenda to pursue. "Al controlled everything, everybody and everything," former White House aide Larry Higby told us about this era. That control was far from benevolent. For instance, during this period he worked closely with another Kraemer friend, Democratic Senator Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson, to allow Jackson to effectively block progress on détente. Haig and his long-term friend J. Fred Buzhardt had been brought into the White House primarily to protect the president from the mounting mess of Watergate. But at every turn they worked to hasten Nixon's exit from office.

We reveal for the first time, based on a close reading of White House documents and tapes, that within days of taking the reins at the White House, Haig maneuvered Nixon into not claiming executive privilege to prevent Lt.-General Vernon Walters -- an old friend of the president's -- from testifying to Congress and turning over a crucial "memcon." The memcon contained Walters' account of the June 23, 1972 meeting at the White House of himself, CIA Director Richard Helms, and Nixon aides John Ehrlichman and H. R. Haldeman, in which the Nixon aides conveyed the need to have the CIA block the FBI's investigation into Watergate. That memcon, and Walters' testimony, would lead investigators directly to the "smoking gun" tape that eventually sealed Nixon's fate.

A month after the Walters memcon affair, Haig assured that Alexander Butterfield would reveal the White House taping system in testimony to the Senate Watergate Committee by concealing from Nixon the fact that Butterfield was about to testify, thus preventing the president from forbidding that testimony on the grounds of executive privilege, which Nixon later wrote that he would have done.

In October 1973, according to then-attorney general Elliot Richardson, Haig's duplicity exacerbated a bad situation with Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox until it mushroomed into the Saturday Night Massacre -- the resignations of Richardson and his deputy, and the firing of Cox -- which spurred the first calls for Nixon's impeachment.

During this period, Haig frequently usurped the president's power, telling a delegation from a high-level security panel who insisted on seeing Nixon, "I am the president" and sending them away.

Some have said that Haig acted imperially and hastened Nixon's exit to protect the country. But as the evidence we have found makes clear, Haig's aims in the Nixon White House in 1973-74 were always to protect himself and aggrandize his own power.

In 1981, when President Reagan was shot, Haig told the Cabinet and the press, "As of now, I am in control here in the White House," and by this obvious mis-stating of the correct chain of succession forever disqualified himself from further high office. In retrospect he claimed his outburst had been no more than a "poor choice of words;" rather, the statement was symptomatic of Haig's lifelong attitude toward democratically elected public officials and presidential power.


Anonymous said...

I met Alexander Haig in Cambodia 1970 when he was just promoted to Brigadier General. He's very impressive as his helicopter landed in Kampong Cham after 3 days and 2 nights of fighting. We won that battle thanks to Khmer Kampuchea Krom Kanseing Sar.

Anonymous said...

Too bad the Kissinger/Haig click abandoned its allies...they greatly contributed to the Cambodian tragedy.

Anonymous said...

Nixon and Kissenger are evil man, they destroyed so many cambodian's far, American done nothing to repay or rebuild cambodia..? only JAPAN/CHINA that help rebuilt alot in CAMBODIA these days...

US is fucken evil governments!

Anonymous said...

Time is about to end for evil's rulers. After this God will come back and rule over another 1000years and then wise and noble men will rule the earth once again. Total of candidates 144,000 chp 7:1 Revelation.

Anonymous said...

U.S. abandoned Vietnam and Cambodia due to crisis in the middle east and at home. Most Americans told their senators that they don't want U.S. to get involved anymore and in order to reduce tension in the Middle East, U.S. has to give up Indochina to China and USSR and in turn they slow down the Arabs i.e. Indochina is no longer a vital interest for the U.S. in 1975.

However, had Nixon still in power (no watergate)Nixon would bombed Haiphong and the war would be over for Hanoi, but it's Hun Sen's luck it was meant to be.

Anonymous said...

i dont a care a fuck about these US old farts. All they did was shit stir Cambodia and its innocent people during their presence in Indochina.

Anonymous said...

USA is going into bankruptcy because of the involvement in war between them and the Middle East. USA once believed that they can not get rich without going into war, but it is now in the reverse cycle like " what goes around will come around" that is if you killed someone, you will get kill yourself like " you do yourself a favor when you are kind...if you are cruel you only hurt yourself" Proverbs 11:17. Kh love Kh

Anonymous said...

Looking back, these machiavellian politicians have just as much innocent blood of our Khmer people on their hands as Ah Pot.

Anonymous said...

Today 22/02/2010,people khmer can understand very well with GOOGLE !

Anonymous said...

I would like to blame Lon Nol and Cambodians for what happened to Cambodia. Many Cambodian leaders at that time know more about French politics, than the US. They got involved in the war, when the US wants to get out of it.

Those who came out of the cold of the Khmer Rouge winter learned what life is all about. At least it helped me to be strong in all occasions. Cambodian tragedy did not end with the fall of the Khmer Rouge. It continues even today. I would think that the cold war is going on on KI media.

Our foreign policy was based on personal feelings rather than on hard analysis of what is good for the country.

History will repeat itself, especially when we don't learn its lessons. Now we must understand the intricated relationships between the US and China.

It sounds that global politics is just like a chess game. Cambodia and Vietnam were left to China and the Russian to halt the grips on the Arabs. I never imagine that. That was not true. The problem in the Middle East is the war between Israel and the Arabs. Isreal won the war, assisted by the US. Once the Arab unity was blown up. Egypt got back the Sinai and US aid in exchange for the recognition of the Israel State. Now half Arab governments abandoned the Palestinians to their own fate. Mossad is powerful. Their techniques are excellent.

I would think this is over when Francis Fukayama wrote a book entitled "The end of history". The West won the war on the East, untill the new area of terrorism, which has become a new world order.

To survive in this world we must learn. We should not just follow blindly. Each country has its own interests and the US interests may not be that of Cambodia and vice versa. One question that I cannot answer is that what would happen if Lon Nol and Sirikmatak did not stage a coup d'Etat? Anyone can give a clue? Thanks

Anonymous said...

Idiot uneducated Khmer Americans who were with Lon Nol from 1970 to 1975, like me, are you clear now ?
Americans abandoned Cambodia in 1975.
I don't ask you to hate Americans, you must love USA because it is your country but you must understand what really happed intead of remain monkey all you live.

Anonymous said...


Here is a clue. Lon Nol did not have a ball or means to back stab Sihanouk. Only when the US approached him to offer a world of support to this numb skull Lon Nol then he and a few other ministers overthrew Sihanouk so that Cambodia could be dragged into the U.S's Vietnam war fighting the left flange to protect the South Vietnamese and U.S's left side and to disrupt the VC's in those areas. Soon after Cambodia found itself fighting the Khmer Rouge as well (Cambodia never had to fight them before. They were weak and ineffective.) the commies from all sides also upped the anti to match. Meanwhile the US was extracting its troops from South Vietnam and finally high tailed home in 1975 leaving Cambodians to die in the hands of the commies which they helped to bring to the front.

Talking about support from the US during the five years, 1970-75, the US LENT WITH INTERESTS NOT gave the $212 millions to the Lon Nol government to fight their war. As a result between 500,000 to 700,000 Cambodians died in addition to the approximately 2 millions who died later under Pol Pot/Khmer Rouge.

So boy, don't you twist things around whoever you are.

The question you should have asked is - What would happen if the US did not instigate and support the coup d'etat in 1975? The answer to that is two millions of Cambodian would not had died. Not hundreds of thousand would die between 1970-75. Needless to say if you are Cambodian, your aunts, uncles, grandmas, grandpas, cousins, brothers, sisters, or parents would not had died back then.

Don't be an idiot.

Anonymous said...

Correction in 10:22 PM: meant to say "What would happen if the US did not instigate and support the coup d'etat in 1970?" NOT 1975.

Anonymous said...

it's just a perfect picture among the two evils responsible for genocide in cambodia. in 1970 it should called an evil usa year. kissinger acknowledged what pol pot was doing to khmer pple but usa government still reconized khmer rouge status in the UN. i wish both of them must go to the hell's courte and explain its unresponsiblity to millions genocide in cambodia.

Anonymous said...

11:22 PM, 11:25 PM,

"What would happen if the US did not instigate and support the coup d'etat in 1970?"
"US would instigate and support the coup d'etat in 1970 made by another Khmer different from Lon Nol"
I hope you understand..
If not, with or without Lon Nol agreement, with or without Khmers agreement, Americans would fight Vietcongs in Cambodia.

Anonymous said...

10:22 AM, you belive that ?
Because of watergate, Nixon could not bomb Haiphong!
Why before watergate he did not bomb Haiphong ?
You are too smart, like Nixon.
This means, none should trust USA government, it could change anytime.

Anonymous said...

Hi 11:22 PM,

The reason why the US support Lon NOl in a coup back in 1970 was that Sihanoukville port was used to supply weapons to the Vietcong, for which Lon Nol was also responsible. Very interesting. But after closing the Sihanoukville ring, the Vietnamese supply the South from the North. The Ho Chi Minh Trail initially starts with Sihanoukville port. CIA collected information about these operations, only after the coup he met his informant col. Kasem, a Cham serving Lon Nol army.

Remember, Prince Sisowath Sirikmatak wrote a note before he died: "The biggest mistake he made is to trust the Americans". But this is politics, there is no friend, but only interest.

So the point is that Lon Nol staged the coup because he wanted power and not he was better than Sihanouk.

The problem was that Cambodia was a small pion in the gloal politics. Just like Siam and Vietnam fought each other in Cambodia in the 18-19th centuries, China, Russia and the US fought each other in proxy wars, in third countries. Right now it is clear,the US won the battle, but not the war, as the war is going on. I would think that it is easirto fight the communists than the terrorists. You just don't see them in the face. We just don't know what will be tomorrow. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

6:27 am,

Ok to your answer which another Khmer besides Lon Nol could get the support from the US for the coup. That would definitely change the time table which ultimate could effect the chain of events resulted in a different outcome. But it was very unlikely because after all these years since the early 1960's they could not find a suitable sorry ass Khmer to help in this misdeed until Lon Nol. If they did, they would had done it long before 1970.

For the second part of your answer, I don't quite get what you are trying to say. With or without agreement, the US would fight the VC in Cambodia. Hummm, yes they did secretly before the coup but were not very successful. That was why they got a find a Khmer that they could use. That's when Lon Nol came in.

Now they got their ally in Cambodia and legitimized their involvement and dragged Cambodian into their war. Did they come to fight the Vietcong with tooth and nail in Cambodia? The answer is No, None, Zero. It was the Cambodians who did the fighting and dying. Remember, they already quit their Vietnam war since 1968 or even earlier. So you are wrong. Besides with all of the benefits of a hindsight, you still can't see it. Think again bro.

Anonymous said...


Hi there! the relationship between Cambodia and the US alas Sihanouk and the US administrations was never smooth only lukewarm at best between the late 1950's until late 1960's. In the most parts, there were trust and respect issues between the two parties. In 1963, you know what happened to Diem, the South Vietnamese president,. The US/Kennedy knew full well the plan until the time when the event was unfolding. Yet the US did nothing. That was summarily equal to the green light. Diem with his brother were assassinated and murdered in the back of a M-113 vehicle. So how could Sihanouk trust the US knowing the same treatment could be his as well? There were also other incidents as well designed to undermind his rule throughout the years. Diem was a staunch anti-communist South Vietnamese president. Sihanouk too was anti-communist deep down inside. He never trusted the North Vietnamese and Vietcong. The US did not fare better either in his mind because in his eyes the US never cared for the sorry little country like Cambodia. Just like you said it is all in one's INTEREST. So Sihanouk had to do what he did to preserve Cambodia's existence. Look, in late 1968 and 1969, Sihanouk threw an olive branch to the US in hope of starting a new cooperation to fight communists. For some reasons, the US ignored him. Sihanouk did walk on a fine line over a tight rope to protect his country, Cambodia.

So this often used justification of what the US did to Cambodia because of the Sihanoukville seaport just does not cut it. It just doesn't do it.

Ok, how about this. Those B-52's that dropped more bombs than in all of WWII combined on Cambodia and killed hundreds of thousand innocent Cambodian civilians. Those planes supposed to drop bombs on the VC and NVA, right? Not civilians. And please don't say that it was war, tough shit. It doesn't cut it either.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with post 10:32am! US will getting worse with their economy, they(US) will not get any better...never!! US caused too much problems all around the world...just like post 10:32AM said, they think the war and selling weapons will help them, but they are wrong this time....

Anonymous said...

US is fucking around with Tibet, and CHINA really pissed off at US right now!! i think US is a trouble maker all around the world...