Kissinger and A Secret US National Security Memo

Kissinger was, in effect, a hired hand within the Government, but not hired by a mere President of the United States.

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Henry Kissinger [File Photo]

‘Control oil and you control the nations; control food and you control the people…’— Henry Kissinger

Population growth and national security

In April 1974, as a worldwide drought and the transformation of American farm policy was in full gear, Nixon’s Secretary of State and National Security Adviser, Henry A. Kissinger, sent out a classified memo to select cabinet officials, including the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Agriculture, Deputy Secretary of State and the CIA Director. 

The title of the top secret memo was, ‘Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for US Security and Overseas Interests.’ The memo dealt with food policy, population growth and strategic raw materials. It had been commissioned by Nixon on the recommendation of John D. Rockefeller III. The secret project came to be called in Washington bureaucratic shorthand, NSSM 200, or National Security Study Memorandum 200. 

It was deemed that, should it ever be publicized or leaked, NSSM 200 would be so explosive, that it was kept secret for almost 15 years until private legal action by organizations associated with the Catholic Church finally forced its declassification in 1989. After a disgraced Nixon resigned over the Watergate scandal in 1975, his successor, Gerald Ford, wasted no time in signing the Executive Order making NSSM 200 official US government policy. 

The US decision to draft the policy came after the 1974 UN Population Conference in Bucharest, Rumania, at which the UN failed to adopt the US position. That position had been shaped by the Rockefeller Foundation and most directly, by John D. Rockefeller III, and consisted in adopting a ‘world population plan of action’ for drastic global population reduction policies. A fierce resistance from the Catholic Church, from every Communist country except Rumania, as well as from Latin American and Asian nations, convinced leading US policy circles that covert means were needed to implement their project. It was entrusted to Henry Kissinger to draft that strategy, NSSM 200.

In his original initiating memo, Kissinger stated, 

The President has directed a study of the impact of world population growth on US security and overseas interests. The study should look forward at least until the year 2000, and use several alternative reasonable projections of population growth. 

In terms of each projection, the study should assess: 

  • the corresponding pace of development, especially in poorer countries; 
  • the demand for US exports, especially of food, and the trade problems the US may face arising from competition for resources; and 
  • the likelihood that population growth or imbalances will produce disruptive foreign policies and international instability.

The study should focus on the international political and economic implications of population growth rather than its ecological, sociological or other aspects. 

The study would then offer possible courses of action for the United States in dealing with population matters abroad, particularly in developing countries, with special attention to these questions: 

  • What, if any, new initiatives by the United States are needed to focus international attention on the population problem? 
  • Can technological innovations or development reduce growth or ameliorate its effects?

By December 1974, Kissinger had completed his policy document. Among its policy conclusions, in the context of its projections of global population growth, it stated, 

The most serious consequence for the short and middle term is the possibility of massive famines in certain parts of the world, especially the poorest regions. 

World needs for food rise by 2-1/2 percent or more per year… at a time when readily available fertilizer and well-watered land is already largely being utilized. Therefore, additions to food production must come mainly from higher yields. Countries with large population growth cannot afford constantly growing imports, but for them to raise food output steadily by 2 to 4 percent over the next generation or two is a formidable challenge. 
Capital and foreign exchange requirements for intensive agriculture are heavy, and are aggravated by energy cost increases and fertilizer scarcities and price rises. The institutional, technical, and economic problems of transforming traditional agriculture are also very difficult to overcome..

In December 1974, the world was in the early weeks of a world oil price shock which saw oil prices explode by a staggering 400% within the coming six months, with profound consequences for world economic growth. Kissinger had personally played the key, behind-the-scenes role in manipulating that oil shock. He knew very well the impact that higher petroleum prices would have on world food supply. He was determined to use that to US strategic advantage. 

Kissinger wrote in his NSSM report, referring to poorer developing countries using the term, Least Developing Countries (LDC’s): 

The world is increasingly dependent on mineral supplies from developing countries, and if rapid population growth frustrates their prospects for economic development and social progress, the resulting instability may undermine the conditions for expanded output and sustained flows of such resources. 

 There will be serious problems for some of the poorest LDCs with rapid population growth. They will increasingly find it difficult to pay for needed raw materials and energy. Fertilizer, vital for their own agricultural production, will be difficult to obtain for the next few years. Imports for fuel and other materials will cause grave problems which could impinge on the US, both through the need to supply greater financial support and in LDC efforts to obtain better terms of trade through higher prices for exports.

Economic Development and Population Growth 

Rapid population growth creates a severe drag on rates of economic development otherwise attainable, sometimes to the point of preventing any increase in per capita incomes. In addition to the overall impact on per capita incomes, rapid population growth seriously affects a vast range of other aspects of the quality of life important to social and economic progress in the LDCs.

The Washington blueprint was explicit. The United States should be in the forefront in promoting population reduction programs, both directly through the aid programs of the Government, making acceptance of birth reduction programs a prerequisite for US help. Or it should act indirectly, via Non-Governmental Organizations of the UN, or other agencies such as the IMF and World Bank.

Bluntly, the new US policy was to be, in effect, ‘if these inferior races get in the way of our securing ample, cheap raw materials, then we must find ways to get rid of them.’ This was the actual meaning of NSSM 200, if in more refined bureaucratic language. 

Explicitly on population control, the NSSM 200 declared, 

[T]he US strategy should support general activities capable of achieving major breakthroughs in key problems which hinder attainment of fertility control objectives. For example, the development of more effective, simpler contraceptive methods through bio-medical research will benefit all countries which face the problem of rapid population growth; improvements in methods for measuring demographic changes will assist a number of LDCs in determining current population growth rates and evaluating the impact over time of population/family planning activities.

Kissinger knew what he referred to when he spoke of ‘simpler contraceptive methods through bio-medical research.’ He was in close contact with the Rockefeller family and that wing of the US establishment which promoted bio-medical research as a new form of population control. Before World War II and Auschwitz revelations had made the term unsavoury, it was known as eugenics. It was renamed by its promoters the more euphemistic ‘population control’ after the war. The content was unchanged: reduce ‘inferior’ races and populations in order to preserve the control by ‘superior’ races.

Food for Cargill & Co.

The NSSM 200 also bore the strong mark of William Pearce and the Cargill agribusiness trade lobby. In a section titled, ‘Food for Peace and Population,’ Kissinger wrote, ‘One of the most fundamental aspects of the impact of population growth on the political and economic well-being of the globe is its relationship to food. Here the problem of the interrelationship of population, national resources, environment, productivity and political and economic stability come together when shortages of this basic human need occur.’ 

He continued, ‘The major challenge will be to increase food production in the LDCs themselves, and to liberalize the system in which grain is transferred commercially from producer to consumer countries.’ 

In effect, he proposed spreading the Rockefeller Foundation’s Green Revolution at the same time demanding removal of protective national trade defenses to open the way for a flood of US grain imports in key developing markets. Explicitly, Kissinger proposed, ‘Expansion of production of the input elements of food production (i.e., fertilizer, availability of water and high yield seed stocks) and increased incentives for expanded agricultural productivity’– the essence of the Green Revolution. It went without saying that US agribusiness companies would supply the needed fertilizer and special high-yield seeds. That was what the so-called Green Revolution had really been about in the 1960’s.

NSSM 200 called for, ‘New international trade arrangements for agricultural products, open enough to permit maximum production by efficient producers…,’ not coincidentally, just the demand of Cargill, ADM, Continental Grain, Bunge and the giant agribusiness corporations then emerging as major US nationally strategic corporations.

The NSSM document packaged the earlier Kissinger ‘food as a weapon’ policy in new clothes: 

Food is another special concern in any population strategy. Adequate food stocks need to be created to provide for periods of severe shortages and LDC food production efforts must be re-enforced to meet increased demand resulting from population and income growth. US agricultural production goals should take account of the normal import requirements of LDC’s (as well as developed countries) and of likely occasional crop failures in major parts of the LDC world. Without improved food security, there will be pressure leading to possible conflict and the desire for large families for “insurance” purposes, thus undermining … population control efforts.

[T]o maximize progress toward population stability, primary emphasis would be placed on the largest and fastest growing developing countries where the imbalance between growing numbers and development potential most seriously risks instability, unrest, and international tensions. These countries are: India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Mexico, Indonesia, Brazil, The Philippines, Thailand, Egypt, Turkey, Ethiopia, and Colombia…This group of priority countries includes some with virtually no government interest in family planning and others with active government family planning programs which require and would welcome enlarged technical and financial assistance. These countries should be given the highest priority within AID’s population program in terms of resource allocations and/or leadership efforts to encourage action by other donors and organizations. (Emphasis added.)

The unlucky Thirteen…

India, Nigeria, Mexico, Indonesia, Brazil, Turkey, Colombia and the others…thirteen developing countries which encompassed some of the most resource-rich areas on the planet. Over the following three decades they were also to be among the most politically unstable. The NSSM 200 policy argued that only a drastic reduction in their populations would allow US exploitation of their raw materials.

Naturally Kissinger knew that if it were to come out that the US Government was actively promoting population reduction in raw materials-rich developing countries, Washington would be accused of imperialist ambitions, genocide and worse. He proposed a slick propaganda campaign to hide this aspect of NSSM 200: 

The US can help to minimize charges of an imperialist motivation behind its support of population activities by repeatedly asserting that such support derives from a concern with:

    (a) the right of the individual couple to determine freely and responsibly their number and spacing of children and to have information, education, and means to do so; and

    (b) the fundamental social and economic development of poor countries in which rapid population growth is both a contributing cause and a consequence of widespread poverty.

Furthermore, the US should also take steps to convey the message that the control of world population growth is in the mutual interest of the developed and developing countries alike.

In so many words, population control on a global scale was now to be called, ‘freedom of choice,’ and ‘sustainable development.’ George Orwell could not have done better. The language had been lifted from an earlier Report to President Nixon from John D. Rockefeller III.

NSSM 200 noted that the volume of grain imports needed by developing countries would ‘grow significantly.’ It called for trade liberalization in grain imports around the world to address this alleged problem, a ‘free market’ not unlike the one Britain demanded when its manufactures dominated world markets after Corn Laws repeal in 1846. 

Like the ‘population bomb,’ the food crisis was also a manufactured hype in the 1970’s, a hype helped by the sudden oil price shock on developing economies. The image of vast areas of the world, teeming with ‘overpopulation’ and rioting or killing, were run repeatedly on American TV to drive the point home. In reality, the main ‘problems’ in developing sector agriculture were mainly that they offered not enough scope or opportunity for the major US agribusiness companies to enter. Cargill and the giant US grain trading companies were not far away from Kissinger’s door. 

The NSSM report added that, ‘The location of known reserves of higher-grade ores of most minerals favors increasing dependence of all industrialized regions on imports from less developed countries. The real problems of mineral supplies lie, not in basic physical sufficiency, but in the politico-economic issues of access, terms for exploration and exploitation, and division of the benefits among producers, consumers, and host country governments.’ Forced population control programs and other measures were to be deployed if necessary, to ensure US access to such strategic raw materials.

The document concluded, ‘In the longer run, LDC’s must both decrease population growth and increase agricultural production significantly.’

While arguing for reducing global population growth by 500 million people by the year 2000, curiously enough, Kissinger noted elsewhere in his report that the population problem was already causing 10 million deaths yearly. In short he advocated doubling the death rate to at least 20 million, in the name of addressing the problem of deaths due to lack of sufficient food. The public would be led to believe that the new policy, at least what would be made public, was a positive one. In the strict definition of the UN Convention of 1948, it was genocide.

Kissinger went on to suggest the kinds of coercive measures the US policy elite now envisioned. He bluntly stated that food aid should be considered, ‘an instrument of national power.’ Then, in a stark comment, he suggested the US would ration its food aid to ‘help people who can’t or won’t control their population growth.’ Sterilize or starve… It was little wonder the document was classified, ‘Top Secret.’ (emphasis added).

NSSM 200 was remarkable in many respects. It made depopulation in foreign developing countries an explicit, if secret, strategic national security priority of the United States Government for the first time. It outlined what was to become a strategy to promote fertility control under the rubric ‘family planning,’ and it linked the population growth issue to the availability of strategic minerals. However, one of the most significant aspects of NSSM 200 was that it reflected an emerging consensus of some of America’s wealthiest families, its most influential establishment.

Kissinger was, in effect, a hired hand within the Government, but not hired by a mere President of the United States. He was hired to basically do the bidding of the establishment which promoted him. He owed his climb to power to the backing of the most powerful family within the postwar US establishment at the time– the Rockefeller family.

In 1955 Nelson Rockefeller had invited Kissinger to become a study director for the Council on Foreign Relations. One year later, Kissinger became Director of the Special Studies Project for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, where he came to know the family on a first-name basis. Kissinger later married a Rockefeller employee, Nancy Maginnes, to round the connection.

By November 1975, Richard Nixon had been forced from office in the mysterious Watergate affair, some suspected on the machinations of a politically ambitious Nelson Rockefeller, working with Kissinger and Alexander Haig. Nixon’s successor, a non-descript Gerald Ford, appointed Nelson Rockefeller to be his Vice President. Nelson was in effect, ‘a heartbeat away’ from his dream of being President. Nelson’s old friend Kissinger was Secretary of State. 

On November 1975, President Ford signed off on Kissinger’s NSSM 200 as official US foreign policy. Kissinger had been replaced by his assistant and later business partner, Brent Scowcroft, as NSC head. Scowcroft dutifully submitted Kissinger’s NSSM 200 draft with strongest recommendation, to the new President for signature. Kissinger remained Secretary of State and, Nelson Rockefeller, Vice President. The US was going into the depopulation business big time, and food control was to play a central role in that business.

F. William Engdahl

F. William Engdahl is an award-winning geopolitical analyst, strategic risk consultant, author, professor and lecturer.
He has been researching and writing about the world political scene for more than thirty years. His various books on geopolitics—the interaction between international power politics, economics and geography—have been translated into 14 foreign languages from Chinese to French, from German to Japanese.

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