November 21, 1973 - the Middle East Crisis, the Oil Embargo and the sudden, baffling Nuclear Alert. The Henry Kissinger press conference.
November 21, 2011

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Exercising the Stratagems and Feints clause.


And if memory serves you well, or even partially, there was the little matter of the Middle East Oil Embargo, the 1973 Arab-Isreali War and the sudden, somewhat baffling Tactical Nuclear Alert called by President Nixon late in October.

Bear in mind, this is all hot on the heels of Watergate and the ever-closing circle on President Nixon and his involvement. A few days earlier we had the infamous "I am not a crook" declaration during a Nixon presser and the non-stop questioning of the press over the full-blown scandal.

So what better opportunity to get the heat off than to manufacture a Great National Emergency? It was one that took everyone by surprise, even allies like Great Britain who were informed via newscast that the world was, according to Nixon, in the gravest of all possible danger.

So it was left up to newly installed (as of September 1973) Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to put the spin on things. And frankly, even he didn't really know what the deal was.

Henry Kissinger: “There’s one matter I wanted to raise with you ladies and gentlemen, growing out of my last press conference in which I promised within a week to supply the material or the evidence on which our decision to have or to go on alert was based. It was a statement that, quite frankly I regretted having made in terms of the short deadline immediately afterwards. The reason is; that as we are now moving towards peace negotiations, which we expect to conduct with the cooperation of the Soviet Union, I do not believe any useful purpose would be served if the United States recited confidential communications taking place, and try to recreate an episode of confrontation that hopefully has been transcended.”

A lot of sleight-of-hand going on during these months - and for good reason if you were in the White House.

Here is the Press Conference from November 21, 1973, which ironically was not permitted to be broadcast live, but rather by tape delay, and broadcast by NPR less than an hour after its conclusion.

No explanation for why it wasn't permitted to go live, just "one of those quirks from the State Department".

Oh. I see.

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