January 21, 2023 Editor

Thoughts On: The Great Santos

January 20, 2023

Matthew Stevenson

image above: Original cover art for the 1927 edition of The Great Gatsby by Francis Cugat.

WN: The highlighted article below is brilliant about politicians’ self-aggrandizement lies, inspired by the current experience of George Santos.

Nuclear strategist Albert Wohlstetter described this longstanding [nuclear] policy as a “delicate balance of terror.”

Further: to attain the highest office in the United States is to fully embrace vast murder and mayhem to keep America at the top of the heap. No President or administration are innocent. Au contraire! As one will find on my Front Page:

Here is a classic expression of America’s will to worldwide domination to extract maximum wealth from all peoples and the planet, the central motif of (American) Empire:

In 1948, George Kennan, State Department Director of policy planning, noted that the United States then possessed “about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population.” The challenge facing U.S. policy makers, he believed, was “to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security.” [1. PPS 23, “Review of Current Trends, U.S. Foreign Policy” (February 24, 1948).] The overarching aim of American statecraft in other words, was to sustain the uniquely favorable situation to which the United States had ascended by the end of World War II. It’s hard to imagine a statement of purpose more succinct, cogent, and to the point. Judged by this standard, the stewards of U.S. foreign policy down to the present day have done more than passably well… (America’s War For the Greater Middle East: A Military History, Andrew J. Bacevich, New York: Random House, 2016, p. 358) (See my commentary on this and more with reference to Michelle Obama here; to President Biden here.)

General (George) Lee Butler, a “nuclear warrior” in the early years of the Cold War (that many claim began with the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan, August 1945), spent 27 years in nuclear policy-making. He eventually in an overt mea culpa became a passionate proponent for outright nuclear abolition. He self-published Uncommon Cause: A Life at Odds With Convention (volumes I & II). He catalogued a long list of disturbing experiences:
• investigating “a distressing array of accidents and incidents involving strategic weapons and forces”
• seeing “an army of experts confounded;”
• confronting “the mind-numbing compression of decision-making under threat of nuclear attack”;
• “staggering costs;”
• “the relentless pressure of advancing technology;”
• “grotesquely destructive war plans;”
• and “the terror-induced anesthesia which suspended rational thought, made nuclear war thinkable, and grossly excessive arsenals possible during the Cold War.” (The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, John W. Dower, Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2017; p. 37. See also my post on this here.) Dower continues:

In retrospect, he decried the “wantonness,” “savagery,” “reckless proliferation,” “treacherous axioms,” and voracious “appetite” of deterrence — for which he himself had helped create many systems and technologies, including “war plans with over 12,000 targets.”… Elegant theories of deterrence,” he exclaimed in one speech, “wilt in the crucible of impending nuclear war.” In later recollection of the folly of deterrence, Butler pointed out that at its peak the United States “had 36,000 weapons in our active inventory,” including nuclear landmines and sea mines and “warheads on artillery shells that could be launched from jeeps.” He concluded that mankind escaped the Cold War without a nuclear holocaust by some combination of diplomatic skill, blind luck and divine intervention, probably the latter in greatest proportion. (ibid, pp. 36 & 37).

Nuclear strategist Albert Wohlstetter described this longstanding policy as a “delicate balance of terror (ibid, p. 27).” In short, any number of nuclear war planners in Washington contemplated striking 295 Soviet cities, with an estimated death toll total of 115 million, and another 107 million dead in Red China, besides millions more in Soviet satellite countries (ibid, pp. 28 & 29). In some circles, as a kind of sick dark humour, the two bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki due to “only” 200,000 dead, came to be called “firecracker nukes (ibid, p. 29).” (This is not to mention the millions killed since World War II with related devastation in at least 37 countries around the world, or the millions murdered through US proxy wars, CIA covert operations the world over, surrogate terror exported to countries throughout Central and South America for more than a century, and other parts of the world, etc., etc., etc… (See ibid, throughout the book.)

Historian John Coatsworth in The Cambridge History of the Cold War noted:

Between 1960, by which time the Soviets had dismantled Stalin’s gulags, and the Soviet collapse in 1990, the numbers of political prisoners, torture victims, and executions of nonviolent political dissenters in Latin America vastly exceeded those of the Soviet Union and its East European satellites. In other words, from 1960 to 1990, the Soviet bloc as a whole was less repressive, measured in terms of human victims, than many individual Latin American countries [under direct sway of US Empire] (“The Cold War in Central America,” pp. 216 – 221).

What was true for Latin America was true for around the world: massive human rights abuses, assassinations, regime changes of democratically elected governments, etc., etc., etc. orchestrated by US Empire. Yet Americans invariably have wanted it both ways: to be seen as the exemplary “City on A Hill” that upholds universal human rights and democracy, while operating a brutal Empire directly contrary to all such elevated values, and a concomitant rapacious Empire market economy that takes no prisoners. This began of course even before the founding of the United States of America and continued apace, in its mass slaughter and dispossession of indigenous peoples, in its brutal system of slavery on which its obscene wealth in the textile industry in the first place was built. “The Land of the Free” conceit was a sustained con job on the part of America’s leaders. It was also apotheosis of hypocrisy. American exceptionalism was/is true in one respect only: it was brutal like no other Empire in its ultimate global reach.

In other words, from 1960 to 1990, the Soviet bloc as a whole was less repressive, measured in terms of human victims, than many individual Latin American countries [under direct sway of US Empire].
And these “noble” American nuclear strategists holding up of course America as bastion of freedom and democracy throughout the world, blithely contemplated over many decades mass murder on a scale that all previous mass murderers combined in the history of the world could only have dreamt/dream of! And serious contemplation of first-strike deployment was given repeated consideration: Public as well as confidential proposals to launch a “preventive” or “pre-emptive” strike against the Soviet Union were not uncommon before the Soviets developed a serious retaliatory capability — including for instance General Douglas MacArthur. The American public likewise supported this in general (ibid, p. 41).

This is America — Leader of the Free World?! Vocabulary for such gargantuan evil mindsets utterly fails! Yet every US Administration since Truman authorized the first atomic bombs dropped (which phenomenon he, a Baptist Sunday School teacher, declared to be “the greatest event in human history” — and not the Resurrection?! — one massively death-dealing, the other universally life-giving), along with thousands of strategists, day-in, day-out, went off to work with this kind of obscene potential horror, with “visions of nuclear plumes dancing in their heads.” How delightfully American (Empire)!

The highlighted article about renowned whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg points to again what is utterly chilling, horror-filled, exponentially beyond immoral, American (hence the world’s) reality: “Daniel Ellsberg: U.S. Military Planned First Strike On Every City In Russia and China … and Gave Many Low-Level Field Commanders the Power to Push the Button“.

And these “noble” American nuclear strategists holding up of course America as bastion of freedom and democracy throughout the world, blithely contemplated over many decades mass murder on a scale that all previous mass murderers combined in the history of the world could only dream of!

Daniel Ellsberg has since written The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. Of it we read:

Shortlisted for the 2018 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction
Finalist for the California Book Award in Nonfiction
The San Francisco Chronicle’s Best of 2017 List
In These Times “Best Books of 2017”
Huffington Post’s Ten Excellent December Books List
LitHub’s “Five Books Making News This Week”

From the legendary whistle-blower who revealed the Pentagon Papers, an eyewitness exposé of the dangers of America’s Top Secret, seventy-year-long nuclear policy that continues to this day.

Here, for the first time, former high-level defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg reveals his shocking firsthand account of America’s nuclear program in the 1960s. From the remotest air bases in the Pacific Command, where he discovered that the authority to initiate use of nuclear weapons was widely delegated, to the secret plans for general nuclear war under Eisenhower, which, if executed, would cause the near-extinction of humanity, Ellsberg shows that the legacy of this most dangerous arms buildup in the history of civilization–and its proposed renewal under the Trump administration–threatens our very survival. No other insider with high-level access has written so candidly of the nuclear strategy of the late Eisenhower and early Kennedy years, and nothing has fundamentally changed since that era.


That said, Santos’s 3.89 grade point average from Baruch, which had him in the top one percent of his class, was good enough to get him jobs at Goldman Sachs and Citigroup (which by the way he misspells on his CV). With any luck it might well position him for a leadership role in the Republican Party, alongside such Freedom Caucus stalwarts as Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, all of whom have run on platforms that believe in the sanctity of invented lives (see Q for starters).

Yes, I have read all the accusations that George faked his résumé (“Enthusiastic leader able to provide a high level of service and enthusiasm for building positive experiences with history of transforming inefficient, under performing operations into successful enterprises”), padded his expense accounts (including a meal at The Breakers Palm Beach, which is three miles up the beach from Mar-a-Memo), fronted for Russians, imagined knee surgery, kited checks and paraded as a drag queen in Brazil, buried his mother while she was still alive, stole the vet money of a dying dog, and doctored his campaign financial reports to show a $705,000 personal loan to his congressional campaign (while at the same time screwing his Elmhurst, Queens, landlord out of unpaid rent worth about $40,0000). But since George is new to the national political scene, let me be the first to say, “Welcome. You’ll fit right in.”

George Washington’s Clay Feet

What can be more American than a political life of illusion?

Since the subject here is politics, let’s start with George Washington, who spent most of the American revolutionary war obsessing over his expense accounts and losing battles to the British (his only real wins came at Trenton, maybe Princeton, and Yorktown).

His earlier incompetence in the field in 1753-4 helped to ignite the French and Indian War, but none of this mattered when Washington ran unopposed for the presidency and won in 1789 and 1793, standing as the “indispensable man” of the new republic.

Not all the founding fathers agreed . . .

Not only was [Andrew Jackson] a slave owner, but in the war of 1812 he imposed martial law on the American city of New Orleans, and, earlier, might well have been caught up in Aaron Burr’s 1805 sedition (a January 6 dry run?) against the United States, to break the country in half.

As president, Jackson ethnically cleansed the Cherokees and other first nations from the Southwest to territories west of the Mississippi. The so-called Trail of Tears killed tens of thousands and has been classified as a genocide, although thanks to some historical rewrites, Jackson today is remembered as the people’s president and for defending individual rights.

Abraham Lincoln is one of the few in politics who was as advertised in his campaign autobiographies. Here’s how he wrote of himself in 1859 to his friend Jesse Fell, knowing that it might be used in a campaign: . . .

Still somehow, I could read, write, and cipher to the Rule of Three, but that was all – I have not been to school since – The little advance I now have upon this store of education, I have picked up from time to time under the pressure of necessity.

George Santos could well have said that since earning his GED (the General Educational Development test in lieu of completing high school) degree in 2006, “I have not been to school since”, but instead he opted to list on his CV a 2013 masters in business administration from New York University. He added a humblebrag that his GMAT score was 710 (out of 800).

But since George is new to the national political scene, let me be the first to say, “Welcome. You’ll fit right in.”

Later Santos confessed to the press: “I didn’t graduate from any institution of higher learning. I’m embarrassed and sorry for having embellished [emphasis mine] my resumé…. I own up to that … We do stupid things in life.”

Embellishment, however, is more what Joe Biden did during the 1988 presidential primary campaign, during which he boasted that he had finished in the top half of his law school class at Syracuse University (he was 76th in a class of 85, and had a brush with plagiarism in his first year).

Nor, as claimed, was Biden named as “the outstanding student in the political science department as an undergraduate at the University of Delaware”. At his Delaware graduation he ranked 506th out of 688 students, for which there are few prizes.

And it would be the air of plagiarism around Biden’s academic work, speeches, and publications that bounced him from the 1988 presidential race (although by 2020 all was forgotten).

Reimagined Lives

In American politics, there is a long and established precedent to revise your education, religion, name, wealth, and sexuality.

Notwithstanding this restriction, during his presidency Trump offered membership in Mar-a-Lago at $200,000 to anyone who could stump up the front money. That list no doubt included more than a few agents of “kings, princes, or foreign States”, who likely would have been drawn to the club for its golf, ocean beaches, and pool lockers flush with state secrets.

The root of the charges against George Santos is that he’s not who he claimed to be, but isn’t the essence of American politics to run an endless series of imposters and con men for the top jobs?
What king, prince, or foreign state would not pay post-presidential Bill $500,000 to make a 45-minute speech, especially when it looked as though his wife would be the next president?

Nor was a Clinton successor, the saintly Barack Obama, above using the presidency or his world-class (embroidered?) CV to launch any number of get-rich-quick schemes (excuse me, what George on his CV calls “Market trends and analysis…).

Out of office, Obama and his wife inked a $65 million book deal, charged $400,000 for speeches and corporate appearances, and agreed to a Harry-and-Meghan-ish mega-deal with Netflix (which no doubt will be waiting with a contract in hand for George Santos the moment he can no longer walk around Congress on his surgically-repaired volleyball knees.)

In American politics, there is a long and established precedent to revise your education, religion, name, wealth, and sexuality.

Like Anthony Devolder (aka George Santos), James Gatz changed his name to Jay Gatsby, and by most accounts earned his fortune (such as it was) through bootlegging and other financial slights-of-hand.

About Gatsby’s origins [in the novel, The Great Gatsby], F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote:

The truth was that Jay Gatsby, of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God—a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that—and he must be about His Father’s business, the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty.

He could well have written the same about Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, or, need I say, George Santos.

Please click on: The Great Santos

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Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.