tv Alan Mc Pherson Ghosts of Sheridan Circle CSPAN November 2, 2019 9:11am-10:01am EDT
but it is important the residence is there, because the residence itself now has a bust of orlando letelier to try to remember him also. and so around the circle, we have these two memorials to this one man and, of course, to ronni moffitt. sheridan circle will be marked forever in the heart of washington, d.c. by this assassination. olivia: hello, everyone. oh, good, we can hear everyone. welcome to busboys and poets. my name is olivia. i am the book events coordinator, and i'm very excited to welcome alan mcpherson for his book "ghosts of sheridan circle." it was an event that i was not aware of, honestly, and i'm very excited to read about it in this book, and i'm excited for alan to speak about it. here at busboys, we like to have
conversations that other people are not having, and i feel like this is one of those. i would like to give you an little overview. if you have cell phones, please take photos, but don't make the flash happen. we are filming tonight, as you can see, and that is distracting. we will have the book for sale. we have them for sale currently. if you want to, i emplore you to look through it and have alan sign it as well. we have a wonderful server who will be here all night, so please take care of her as she will take care of you. i will now turn it on over to alan for the talk of "ghosts of sheridan circle" -- for the talk ." [applause] dr. mcpherson: thank you very much, olivia. thank you to busboys and poets
for hosting this. i want to thank my publisher for putting this together, the few institutions, also, who made this happen in washington. i'm so happy to be presenting this in washington, which is , you know, literally the scene of this crime. the institute for policy studies is very important in letting me interview them and keep the memory of this book alive for 40-plus years. also, the embassy of chile was very helpful. so let me begin with the first words from this book. and these are the people talking. "isabel, i have a surprise for you. have lunch with me." "today will be difficult. i have work. " "but you will love the surprise," orlando letelier insisted. come and get me at 2:30 and have lunch for the afternoon. isabel letelier acceded. after all, her husband was a charmer. it was time for orlando letelier 9:30 a.m., to go to work in d.c.'s dupont
circle. he had been at a leftist think tank for years, using a platform that undermined the ironfisted pinochet, whoto had overthrown the government of president salvador allende. as a private citizen now, he exposed pinochet's human rights atrocities, incited boycotts, and discouraged investment. two of his colleagues happen to ride with him that day. michael and ronni moffitt, both 25, and recently married. whileffitts waited letelier showered and dressed and rushed out the door. isabel barely had time to kiss him goodbye. orlando took the wheel of his 1975 chevelle malibu classic. michael opened the front passenger door for ronni and plopped himself in the backseat. it was a drizzly morning in the
nation's capital. in less than an hour, orlando and ronni would be dead. michael would be traumatized for life. this is the actual car after the bombing. on sheridan circle. "i never learned what the surprise was," isabel recalled when i interviewed her over 40 years after the event. to this day, the killing of orlando letelier and ronni moffitt remains the only assassination of a foreign diplomat on u.s. soil. it is also the only state sponsored assassination in washington, and the most important in u.s. history. the letelier-moffitt assassinations constituted the most brazen act of international terrorism ever committed in the capital of the united states. . the only state-sponsored such act and the only car bomb. the two-decades-long resolution of the case would hold implications for chile, the united states, terrorism, human rights, and the state of democracy everywhere.
my book literally argues it was crucial in taking down the entire pinochet government, but today, i want to explore a subtheme of the book. two opposing forces -- fascism on one side and human rights on the other. they clashed during these decades, and they outlive the capitalist communist ideological struggle of the cold war. these forces are still with us today, and letelier's assassination brought them into open conflict. on the cover, you have, on top here -- you have the car on the bottom, but on the top, you have orlando letelier on the right and ronni moffitt on the left. the order to assassinate letelier was not simply an overreaction by an anti-communist regime, although it was that. it was also rooted in the fascism that lurked inside postwar latin american political culture. in chile, that fascism partly came from germany. in the 19th century, southern chile attracted 30,000 settlers from the german states.
a military mission from prussia shaped up chile's troops, resulting in the gray uniforms and goose-stepping of the daunting chilean army. in the 20th century, the mostly fair-skinned, well-to-do germans southern germans filled the ranks of far right parties. they cheered and marched when hitler came to power. the nazis of chile boasted 60,000 members, electing three to the national legislature. in 1938, they attempted a failed putsch in santiago. after world war ii, it became a favorite destination for nazi officers, fearing persecution. throughout, not only did they adopt nazi tenants but also added their own. state control of the economy, transnational leadership, anti-communism, but also added its own, a love of all things
, the tradition of catholicism, a rejection of empires, and the championing of latin american unity made this among the most potent totalitarianisms in latin america. the man on the left gave the , contreras, the man on the right, was the head of the secret police who gave the order to kill letelier. after world war ii, he admired spanish dictator francisco franco. when pinochet and his allies carried out their plan -- a colonel, contreras is no answer to no general, minister, or judge, only to pinochet. he dominated all other intelligence agencies.
its 9300 employees could raid homes and jail suspects without charges, and its 20,000 to 30,000 informants spread fear throughout other chilean government agencies. its logo featuring an iron glove, d.i.n.a. was responsible for about 1200 of the 3200 executions under pinochet. the association between d.i.n.a. and fascism were legion. it was alleged that if employees engaged -- the use of rhône and ancient germanic alchemy and the celebration of solstices and equinoxes to revive nazi-ism. d.i.n.a. members addressed each other as pharaohs, priests, and slaves, denoting their status within the hierarchy. contreras is even allied with former nazi paul schaefer of colony of dignity.
the u.s. department of defense compared d.i.n.a. to hitler's gestapo. franco supporters lined up on the avenue from the airport and gave the chileans' motorcade the stiff armed fascist salute. in my book, i call contreras the himmler of the andes. there and in other detention centers he would remain for a year, never charged with a crime, psychologically tortured and there until the venezuelan government obtained his freedom. for his relief, letelier was told in no uncertain words general pinochet will not and does not tolerate any activity against his government. still, letelier ended up working against pinochet in washington. his work coincided with a golden age of human rights activism in the 1990's.
-- the mid-1970's. more than 200 groups in the united states worked on human rights. over 50 lobbied congress and about 15 concentrated on latin america. civil rights icon patricia derian became the first assistant for democracy, human rights, and labor under the jimmy carter administration. just a few months after the letelier assassination, mark schneider, who had worked for kennedy in massachusetts on several issues. in congress, representative don fraser chaired the first congressional hearings on human rights in 1973. helping him were, among others, tom harkin, michael harrington, .
these were all democrats. on china, congress's greatest achievement was the 1975 harkin amendment, which cut off aid to any government that grossly violated human rights. unless the president determine such aid would directly benefit the needy. the following year, teddy kennedy directly targeted chile. one chilean magazine called kennedy the most dangerous foreign adversary of the pinochet regime. letelier, helped by ronni and michael moffitt, worked for one ,he institute of policy studies one of the most influential human rights, and a station in the country. he talked with american universities, he lunched with senators. angela davis once came to his house. joan baez was his friend. he became a unifier for chilean
exiles, numbering in the hundreds of thousands worldwide. he also convinced dockworker federations to boycott the handling of chilean goods and therefore won the cancellation of a planned $62 million mining investment in chile. these two things seem to have convinced pinochet to order letelier's assassination. from roughly 1975 to 1983, contreras and his allies killed hundreds of people. henry kissinger became an expert. one month before letelier was killed, kissinger's office prepared a report demonstrating washington's deep concern over their plan for the assassination of subversives in prominent and prominent figures, both within the national border of certain southern countries and abroad. in other words, the state department was supposed to tell south american dictators not to kill people outside of south america, but for one month, none of the ambassadors who received
this cable from washington did anything about it. it is very rare in diplomacy. usually you're given an order, you do it. the ambassador in uruguay feared for his life if he wagged his finger at the generals. the envoy to chile feared pinochet might well take as an insult any inference that he was connected to any assassination plots. five days before the letelier assassination, kissinger ordered , quote, but "no further action be taken on the matter." back in chile in the same summer of 1976, contreras, acting secretary, acting entrusted the hit on letelier, an american chilean explosive expert. this is michael townley with his wife. during the allende years, townley worked with shock troops called fatherland and freedom. recruits received training in
coding and code breaking, weapons handling, explosives, and martial arts with nunchucks. later, paolo rodriguez would regularly line of his troops, as he called them, and review them with his right arm crossed against his chest -- remember, these are teenagers, not right? they are not soldiers. they wore black uniforms and white armbands adorned with a swastika-like emblem that united chain-links and resembled a spider. hitler's brownshirts would have approved. allende followers called fatherland and freedom a bunch of fascists. paid for by the cia. and it turns out they were correct. out, in fall 1970, kissinger requested and received $38,000 for support of this fascist organization. others in the group admitted receiving no funds and added
that an extra $5000 per month filtered in. back to townley, the bomb maker. he embraced the rhetoric and the actions of fatherland and freedom and started making bombs for them. "the masses are not ready to govern themselves," he said. "democracy leads only to mass government ruled by the herd. power should be reserved by the few, the intellectuals." , the philosopher kings." in the united states, townley connected with about five cuban-americans, also proto-fascists. they called themselves the cuban nationalist movement, headquartered in a new jersey newly cubanized since fidel castro's 1959 revolution. they were also disenchanted with the u.s. government. here's a picture of a few of them in their headquarters in new jersey, along with their logo, which has the island of cuba with a number three, which means not communist, not capitalism, but a third way,
and a lightning strike against communism, which essentially meant violence against cuba. like contreras, these cuban americans had decided to kill opponents throughout the world. soon, bombs went off in montréal, new york, and elsewhere. between 1974 and 1976, u.s. authorities tied 202 major bombings in 22 countries to cuban exiles. one every five days on average , and 113 of them in the united states. in 1974, cuban exiles accounted for 45% of all terrorist bombings on the planet. the cuban nationalist movement the cuban nationalist movement motto, "cuba before all," phrase, "de german
eutschland uber alles." pamphlets outline and ideology of a capitalism similar to hitler's. one of these cubans once asked michael townley and his wife during a dinner, "what do you think about the world jewish conspiracy?" remember, they are trying to fight communism. townley says, "i beg your pardon, what?" "the jewish conspiracy, he repeats." "it seems to me," she told him, "you got sidetracked on purpose. fidel castro is too difficult to target. naturally, it is easier to fight the jews than the cubans." still, these cuban-americans help townley build a car bomb
and install it under letelier's car. one cuban drove behind him while another pushed the button on the detonator. for washington, the challenge the assassination posed was enabling fascism to infiltrate the chilean government. those such as teddy kennedy, who champion human rights, and the vast majority in the middle who needed the car bombing to prompt them to care enough. early on, mainstream u.s. observers tended towards absolving the chilean regime. the "new york times" editor concluded it is hard to believe that even as ham-handed a regime as chile's would order the murder of an opponent as mr. letelier in the united states. the national security council . the national security council admitted that right-wing chileans are the obvious candidates and could be too obvious. thankfully, the investigation was not up to them. it was the job of the fbi and attorney general's office. the amendment were not only anti-communist but also gifted technocrats, dedicated to
solving the murder wherever it took them. for almost 18 months, the fbi had no solid lead on this case. it had heard of a mysterious gringo amongst chileans but had no name. right? it turns out it was michael townley. it had heard rumors from cuban americans, a grand jury subpoena them, but they kept mum, and the investigation kept getting threats, just as orlando and isabel had before the assassination. i will give you a few examples of these threats. on october 4, an unknown male called orlando letelier's aunt, maria. he said,aria, maria," condescendingly, "talking to the fbi will not help you. your legs will be spread in washington, d.c., just like orlando's." and then he hung up. in november, a flight attendant wast to join her crew
standing at kennedy airport, rifling through her purse for her keys. suddenly, a man grabbed her arm and yanked her around. "you tell your little friend keep his fucking nose out of our chile's business, or you won't be so pretty anymore. boom boom. you know what i mean?" these kinds of things happened over and over again in the investigation, to the fbi, to the lawyers, and of course to anyone who talked to the fbi. if they can do this and get away with it under the nose of the cia and fbi, said president-elect jimmy carter, in november of 1976, then no president can govern. he was talking about the letelier assassination. on the one hand, carter meant that such a brazen attack was of a u.s. citizen on american soil was unacceptable, making whether republican or democrat, and made the united states look unable to police its own borders. they made the cold war seem out of control. on the other hand, foreign policymakers were careful about
pushing a cold war ally too hard. a u.s. political officer in chile explained they are not against a chilean government but hadt against what they done, meaning the overthrow of we were against the abuse and terrorism performed in its name. it was offered up to regular people to pressure carter officials against the chileans. first to expel townley from chile, which prove successful, and second, expedite contreras, which proved a failure. carter -- part of his determination to get to the bottom of the crime. pinochet nodded and promised cooperation, but my book reveals how behind the scenes, the dictator orchestrated a cover-up. letelier and moffitt, therefore,
being the widow and widower, were aghast. moffitt asked at a press conference, if carter is serious about human rights, why doesn't he welcome isabel and me like he , just like he welcomes pinochet? brezinski denied them. "brezinski did not help at all," letelier told me. "we could never get through to him, never." and she remembered this in her late 80's. college and local newspapers covered her, as did local radio and television. this is the human rights network. when the right-wing media in the u.s. tried to smear orlando as a tool of fidel castro, isabel debunked their lies. the dam finally burst when in march 1978, when investigators published photos of the two men whose name they ignored, but whom they accused of being
involved. they have their passport photos , but they did not have the names. they just knew these men had come to washington during the assassination -- or at least before it. within days, chileans identified townley and his friend, armando fernandez, as the two men from chile who were in the united states during the assassination. santiagoed in sa the following morning, rising conspiracies among officials. was he a hippie, a jew? the americans saw no trace of a chilean manhunt for townley. just as the chileans were pretending to look for him. they were certain that instead, chileans were prevaricating while hiding townley. there were also consummate professionals among the diplomats. u.s. ambassador george landau, for instance, a man who had been demanding a meeting with the chilean foreign minister. he dropped all the diplomatic politics he had practiced
throughout his career and threatened that if townley was not made to answer the u.s. government's questions, all u.s. activity with chile would be in danger. trade, investment, diplomatic relations. "friendly, i don't believe your people are trying very hard," landau said, which is a rare thing for an ambassador to say. shortly after, the 15th floor of the building out of which he ruled, pinochet's political team that, setting out its task keeping townley in chile. suddenly, the french doors to the meeting room swung open, and in walked pinochet himself. the dictator rarely descended below his 22nd floor. this meant something. "please continue. don't mind me," the strongman instructed his advisers, while he paced behind their chairs. then, of course, he interrupted. "we were doing so well, so well, ready to take off, and then this. this is a banana peel, senores.
we step on it, the government will fall. we will fall." as abruptly as he entered, he left the room. pinochet's anxiety seemed to change the momentum of the meeting. talk of avoiding townley's expulsion switched to handing him over to the americans. within weeks, therefore, townley was stateside spilling all the , chilean figures on the assassination -- chilean secrets on the assassination. prisont three years in and is likely now still living in the witness protection program. three cuban americans were also tried, but their guilty verdicts were soon after thrown out on technicalities. the champions of human rights had won a limited victory, but pinochet remained in power, and contreras, though demoted, remained free. the chilean court refused to extradite him, espinoza, and fernando, three chileans who were directly involved. my book is the first to recount what happened over the next 15 years. after about 1980, the story shifted to chile, where fascist and human rights champions again
remained in conflict. isabel letelier and her family technically kept the legal case technically alive against contreras, espinoza, and fernandez, but held out little hope of an actual trial while pinochet was in power. in the u.s., the reagan government repealed carter's already weak sanctions. crucially, however democrats in , congress force the executives to "certify" that charlotte was chile was making progress on the elier-moffitt case in order to allow military to military relations, so it's the democrats in congress who forced reagan to be tough on pinochet. it took a few breaks in the late 1980's and early 1990's to reinvigorate the case in chile. the first break was a defection in 1987 of armando fernandez, the other guy in the passport photos. he had not committed a particularl he had surveilled
letelier in washington and had not committed a particularly serious crime. for the first time, americans are the details about pinochet's orchestration of the cover-up. fernandez ended up spending only 21 months in chilean hospitals in u.s. prisons, but it was the first conviction of a chilean military man in u.s. courts. it also seems to have led the cia to conclude that pinochet not only covered up the crime but also ordered the hit, and this is a conclusion that only came to light in 2015. in 1990, another defection of sorts confirmed fernandez's story. a woman named monica lagos, a former dancer and later escort for d.i.n.a., had accompanied fernandez to washington to act as his wife under the pseudonym liliana walker. she had disappeared from everyone's radar and spent much of the 1980's suffering from debilitating alcoholism, drug addiction, and schizophrenia. on april 17, 1990, chileans awoke to a dramatic front-page
headline, "i am liliana walker," it declared, accompanied by a 1976 passport photo. an intrepid journalist have d found her living at her parents' house. at this point, the reagan and bush governments had turned against the notion. -- pinochet. the democratic opposition led the way. the press felt free to criticize the regime, and as a result, pinochet lost a referendum. in early 1990, a new democratic government was in power. because of the confessions, the letelier case could be reopened in chilean court because there was new evidence. they found contreras and espinoza guilty three years later. contreras spent the rest of his life in detention until he died
in 2015. espinoza is still in prison. the letelier affair stands as one of the most consequential assassinations of the cold war. in chile, the quest for justice brought about the dissolution of d.i.n.a. and eventually defanged the country's amnesty laws. it forced the government to put reagan government put financial and political pressure on the dictatorship. contreras and espinoza were the first of pinochet's military officers to go to prison. or from anywhere to go to prison. -- or from anywhere in latin america to go to prison. the case sparked a movement that has adjudicated more than 1000 abuses of human rights violations in chile alone. the story also demonstrates the transnational power of human rights. the civil case represented the first wrongful death case ever brought in the united states against a foreign nation, and it culminated in a payment of millions of dollars to the leteliers and moffitts in the early 1990's. in addition, the letelier affair broke down walls separating
, separating domestic and international terrorism. blending human rights and counterterrorism advances, the case produced additional firsts -- the first deal against extradition when the united states had an extradition treaty with another country, the first charges ever filed in the american legal system against cuban-american terrorists, the first conviction of a chilean military man in u.s. court, and the first live telecast of chilean court proceedings. in civil court, the case became the first filed under the foreign sovereign immunities act that dealt with terrorism. in 1996, it led to a law that stripped immunity from a foreign state when damages were sought against specific terrorism acts. said one u.s. diplomat, "the letelier assassination was one of the most stupid things done by any government." that is true. contreras, andhet,
townley did not understand the impact. it took decades, but there their monstrous actions backfired. the result of a movement of human rights activists who correctly identified the fascist core of the pinochet regime. thank you very much. [applause] olivia: we can take some questions from the audience. i have a wireless microphone i can walk around with. if anyone has questions, just raise your hand. >> [inaudible] could you talk a little bit about the research you did for the book? dr. mcpherson: i'm happy. [laughs] >> [inaudible]
dr. mcpherson: right. well, i did research on three continents, essentially, like, north america, latin america, and europe. when i began this, it was about 2014, and i thought all the documents were out, right? i figured i was sort of go and find them. then i realized while i was at this amazing archive, while i called the national security archive here in washington while , i was doing research there, i realized shortly after that we done declassifying materials, so new declassifications came out in 2015 and 2016. among those, as i mentioned in my talk, were the cia documents that basically concluded that pinochet not only covered up the crime but also ordered the hit. up to that point, this had only -- something that everybody knew was true but
nobody had any evidence, right, that pinochet had ordered this. the cia said, we are concluding this, so it has become an official finding of the letelier assassination. i found great documents at the institute of policy studies. all the archives of not only letelier, who worked there, but his colleagues and his widow. once he was killed, she essentially took over his job , did a lot of human rights work, and there were several psychological follow-throughs on how this had traumatized her, traumatized michael moffitt, who also worked at ips, traumatized their children. i mean she and orlando had four , teenage sons when this happened. those are amazing documents that allow you to follow the story in a humane way and in a human way
how people were traumatized for , decades after this. in chile, i found the documents of the letelier family itself. they had not been in the archive for very long, maybe five or 10 years, and i am not sure a lot of people have worked on them, but they are amazing letters. notably letters that letelier and his wife wrote to each other when he was in that concentration camp, essentially, in patagonia, where he was bleeding to death and losing 30, 50 pounds, and they were sending love letters to each other, and his kids are sending letters, and you have to realize these , are teenage boys, and they are sending letters to their father , who is in a concentration camp, and he could die at any time, and is nothing they can do about it. i interviewed her in santiago. i interviewed two of her kids , who are now in their late 50's, living in the united states.
i interviewed a bunch of other people who were connected to the case in some way. it has been a fascinating research adventure. >> [inaudible] dr. mcpherson: sure. >> can you expand a little bit on the reaction -- capture -- dr. mcpherson: sure, i'm glad to. the question was about the reaction of the u.s. government in the first few days after the car bombing. i mean, remember, this happened during the ford administration. so henry kissinger is still the secretary of state. carter will be elected about a month and a half in the future, but there is an election going on, so the response -- i mean, we have no real response that
has been recorded, but we have internal documents from the department of defense, department of state, and the general stance is that pinochet -- well, d.i.n.a. probably did this, but it seems too obvious, right? they're looking at all the options. the options include not just d.i.n.a. but it could be a rogue , force within the government or a paramilitary force. it could also be -- and this is something many people think or , or they are trying to spread, is that it could be the extreme left. it could be these leftist guerrillas organizing violently against pinochet. the government glommed onto this explanation. they say of course this must be what it is. it cannot possibly be d.i.n.a. or this righteous anti-communist government. it has to be these extreme communists, and they want to pin it on us, they want to make it look like it's us, so inside the u.s. government, you immediately have, you know, a bit of a tug-of-war.
you have people saying this, but you also have people going, it might be the extreme left, but it's probably pinochet. pinochet has the means and motivation to do this sort of thing. also, there's a tug-of-war between the fbi and cia. they don't particularly get along at this point. the cia has done a lot of dirty work in south america and been , it has been allied with most of these governments, and it has essentially given the green light that these governments can do what they wanted terms of human rights, and it will not stop them. the fbi does not really work abroad. partly it has some folks abroad, but it mostly takes care of crimes in the united states. one thing it does is it immediately takes this crime away from the washington, d.c., police. they say "we cannot trust the d.c. police." we are going to control them, and we are a little afraid of what the cia will do with this. because if we ask them to, let's say, contact their chilean operatives, not only could they burn bridges, but they will give them some of our information, so
we don't want to waste our information or lose our information through the cia, right, because they don't really trust the motivations of the cia. the cia wants to win the cold war, where the fbi wants to solve this crime. one crime at a time. the cia is much more ideological. there is immediately a tug-of-war, but clearly, the prerogative is that of the fbi and the department of justice. >> early in your talk, you mentioned the fund of money from the cia that went through henry kissinger. can you expand on what happened with those funds at all? dr. mcpherson: sure, yes. i'm not sure exactly what happened to it.
it was not a lot of money, right? we are talking tens of thousands of dollars, and i'm sure it's not the only money that this organization had, but these guys were not only fascist in their ideology, they were essentially terrorists. they were, you know, youth shock troops, which means they were mostly college students, high school students, and they were organizing during the three years of the allende regime. so you have a communist, or a an elected marxist president trying to run the country, and he's having some problems, and some come from these groups who are marching in the streets but also setting off bombs here and there, and they are trying to prepare a coup, so they are hoping that a pinochet-like coup will occur, and they're trying to make it happen by creating chaos in the street. right? they will bomb an electric power station, so they have to turn off the power and all of santiago, and they will blame it
on allende, they will blame it on the marxist government. who knows where this money went to? maybe the money went to publications or radio programs and that sort of thing, but maybe it did go to this real sort of subversive activity, and so that is pretty revealing, that our government would do that sort of thing, but that is more or less what the cia did through lots of people in south america. they did not do it themselves, but they gave money and said, well you are freedom fighters. , you can do whatever you want with this money. also, did pinochet, later in his life, ultimately ever have to face or answer for this crime? dr. mcpherson: did pinochet answer for this crime? that is a good question, and it's dealt with mostly in the epilogue of the book. right? the epilogue goes from 1995,
when contreras and espinoza are found guilty and they go to jail, to essentially 2018. the quick answer is no. pinochet never had to answer for this crime, although if you know the story of pinochet, you know that in 1998, he does have to start answering for other crimes, right? he goes to london, and the spanish essentially try to extradite him for crimes against spaniards, and this starts this whole process. he is eventually sent back to chile, but at this point, the courts of chile have really turned around, and they put him on the docket and accuse him of all these crimes, and he dies before he is ever found guilty of any of them. none of hisfor crimes, but it is interesting that in the early 1990's, while contreras is being accused of these things -- and he's appearing on tv all the time -- he starts mildly accusing pinochet of actually being the guy who gave them the order. right?
to put the hit on letelier. he never says the words "pinochet did it," but he says things like, "everything i did, i did because el jefe told me to do it. everything i did as the head of d.i.n.a." at some point, they even have a shouting match against this. pinochet saying, "no, no, no, i just gave you general directions to deal with subversives. i did not tell you to kill anyone." so it is not absolutely clear from those conversations and those shouting matches what contreras really meant. contreras' explanation for this particular crime was always the same. until he died, he said the cia did it, and michael townley was an agent of the cia, right? because that is a lie that anyone in south america would believe, either on the left or on the right. they would believe the cia is
able to do these sorts of things, and of course, it is able to do it, and townley is an american, so it seems to make sense. but it does not make sense. it is not true. >> i have one last question. i just wanted to know what your personal connection to the story is and what drew you wanting to explain more from 1995 to last year. dr. mcpherson: i have no deep personal connection to the story, although chile is one of the first countries that i traveled to when i was sort of exploring in my early 20's, soy i spent a few months in the country, traveled to the north and south and loved it. it was during the first years when chilean democracy came back -- pinochet was gone, but i remember hearing about the colony of dignity, which was this concentration camp in the south of chile that was completely private, but now we
know that contreras would send prisoners there to get tortured. there was a movie about this that came out a couple of years ago. in fact, several movies have come out about this. so i sort of had this emotional connection, generally speaking, to chile and its people. i've had good friends come from there, and when i started research on the next project, i about five years ago, i was sort of interested in reagan and latin america in the 1980's and and i read a pretty academic , book about reagan and pinochet. in fact, it is called "reagan and pinochet." it's a very good academic book, and partly, it made me realize that this story had not disappeared off the ledger by the reagan administration. i thought once they captured townley in 1978, it is essentially over, but it wasn't. it remained a real bone of contention, so intellectually, i got really interested in why and how it could remain such a bone of contention.
it's just an assassination. how could it completely change the dynamics of these two really close cold war allies so as to really fracture those relations by the end of the 1980's? and once you start reading about their lives, which i really kind of exposed in this book, you really get a sense of who these people are. you really get attached to them , and you care about what happens to them and their families. thank you very much. [applause] olivia: thank you. thank you so much, alan, and thank you all for being here. like i said, "ghosts of sheridan circle" is on sale at all of our busboys locations, so i emplore you to take a look at it if you haven't already. thanks for coming. have a great night, everybody. thanks again. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span3.
to join the conversation, like us on facebook, at c-span history. >> today, on the trail of the civil war, we talk about the battle of virginia's berg in virginia and why it was over shattered -- overshadowed by larger and bloodier battles. here is a preview. drew: and when it you believe that is not just the case with edwin brown? when you look at the men who fought in leesburg, they have not for -- they do not forget it . so why have we? that is a good question. and what a miserable honor to have, an awful accolade, a forgotten battle. all of you guys who fought that day, you are not nearly as cool as chancellorsville. [laughter] drew: but why? why have we forgotten about williamsburg? when you think about williamsburg, what is the first thing that comes to mind?
rockefeller. i forgot, this was an intelligent room. [laughter] geez, you guys are awake. nobody thinks about williamsburg a civil war. when george washington marches down that duke of gloucester street in 1781 on his way to yorktown, there is one single business open in williamsburg, just one. not a real bustling town, as it would be today. but still, or public member commands colonials, williamsburg , jamestown, and of course your town. we don't often think of civil war, williamsburg. and it is also forgotten over the period, because a few short weeks after the battle of williamsburg, we have this massive clash in richmond, and the newspapers were just getting ready to write about
williamsburg, which, ok, we will write about another instead. the failures of scholarship over the last 150 years. it is only within the last two years that we have gotten decent books about the battle of williamsburg, the importance of the peninsula campaign. so why not write about williamsburg? you go backn through the books, some of the best books from our favorite historians, one of particular, have six pages about the battle of williamsburg. >> maybe it's not as interesting, maybe it would not sell, maybe the publisher said no. it's my goal here in the next three and a half hours of my lecture -- [laughter] realize this is the most important area. announcer: learn more about the battle of williamsburg today at
6:00 p.m. eastern on the civil war. you're watching american history tv. this weekend american history tv is joining our spectrum cable partners showcasing the history of laramie, wyoming. to watch more, visit c-span.org /cities tour. we continue now with our look at the history of laramie. >> we are in that mansion that edward iversen built and it is now the home of that laramie plains museum, and it has been restored because for about 10 years it was vacant and people broken and vandalized the building and it has been a very long and fruitful effort to make it into this wonderful museum that we have here that highlights not only the ivinson family but issues from the pas