Monday, September 21, 2009

Thirty-Nine Years Ago

Remember Black September, the month, that is, not the terror group?

On September 20, at 10 P.M. Washington time, 5 A.M. the next day in Israel, Kissinger informed Rabin that Hussein was asking - in a message he had sent via the British ambassador in Amman - for the Israeli air force to attack the Syrian tank force that had invaded Jordan, occupied Irbid and was preparing to move south. As they were speaking, a telegram that had been sent two hours earlier arrived from the American ambassador in Amman: Hussein had phoned him to ask Nixon for "immediate physical intervention both air and land ... to safeguard sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Jordan. Immediate air strikes on invading forces from any quarter plus air cover are imperative. Wish earliest word on length of time it may require your forces to land when requested which might be very soon."

In a conversation with Rogers, Kissinger interpreted Hussein's request as an invitation for an Israeli aerial action and an American ground action. Rogers agreed that there was no alternative - the Israeli air force would have to act or else everything would fall apart.

Nixon to Kissinger: "We must act one way or the other; either the Israelis or ourselves. That's the way it looks."

Kissinger: "I agree with you."

Nixon: "It's too bad we don't have more land bases. Our action would have to be quick and surgical."

Kissinger: "Well, our action would have to be overwhelming."

Nixon: "Yes, that's right."

Kissinger: "We can't have another even three-months' war [as the U.S. had been involved in Cambodia the previous spring] - trouble against these God-damned Syrians."

Nixon: "The Israelis have mixed motives, and also they have their military bureaucracy, which they now have to have the luxury and the burden of. Their mixed motives are that they'd like to go in there, you know, and f--k a little of the ground. And second ..."

Kissinger: "They want to really tear up the Syrians for once, whom they've never had a crack at."

Nixon: "I hope to Christ they do!"

Rogers noted that "Dayan had always regretted not doing this in the area of conflict."


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