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From notes taken during a November 21, 1969, telephone conversation between National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger and Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird following the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s publication of photographs of the 1968 massacre by American soldiers of 347 civilians at My Lai, South Vietnam. Last May the State Department declassified 20,000 pages of Kissinger’s telephone conversations, five years after the National Security Archive began legal proceedings demanding their release.

K was calling about the atrocity case: the President wants to make sure L got a game plan. K said it was going to be a terrible mess. L asked if K had the pictures. K said no. L asked if K would like to look at them: K said should I? L said K might as well not. They’re pretty terrible. L said it didn’t happen on our watch and we’re going to make that clear. L said some of the press wants us to give them out, but we’re not going to. K said no, we don’t want you to. L said about a game plan, he’d like to sweep the whole thing under the rug, but you can’t do that. K said we just need some unified line. L said he’s going to say that he discovered it in March; he was shocked; he ordered a full investigation. L said it would be released Monday or Tuesday. L said those boys had been suffering terribly; one of their boys had been killed just twenty-four hours before. L said you can understand a little bit of this, but you shouldn’t kill that many. L said he didn’t know what to do. L said we’ve got all kinds of problems with this atrocity thing, but we’ve got to be careful that we don’t take on everybody on the Vietnam war thing. L has written up some notes; maybe K should see them. K said he would love to see them. L said it’s the long term thing you have to look at. K said right, if you could let me see those notes, I basically agree with you.

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August 2004

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