"Take a look at the bad
guy. Come on, it's the last time you gonna
see a bad guy like me again, let me tell you."
This immortal line
from the 1983 remake of “Scarface,” uttered
by Al Pacino as coke baron Tony Montana has
bounced off the cushions of the pool table in my head more than once
recently as I've contemplated both the end of Osama bin Laden and the
multinational coalition effort to remove Muammar Qaddafi from control of
Libya by force of arms.
Both initiatives, though
outwardly unrelated, do seem to share things in common and have strange,
or maybe not so strange, associations with that particular movie, which
was essentially a modern day passion play about a challenger to the
status quo, a violent upstart trying to muscle his way into the upper
strata of a criminal power structure.
Tony Montana has come up
from the mean streets of Miami, successfully cutting out competitor
street-level criminals before connecting with the suave and worldly
Alejandro Sosa, a powerful Bolivian druglord,
and ultimately becoming Sosa's man in Miami, to replace the deposed
Frank Lopez, Tony’s former patron. But Sosa is more than merely the
chieftain of a major narcocriminal cartel.
He is the embodiment of the convergence between governments,
multinational corporations, banks, military organizations and global
crime -- to name but a few interconnections -- who as a result wields
Though Sosa's mailed
fist is well concealed within a velvet glove of smooth talk and polished
sophistication, its presence is never to be forgotten. Tony, in his
hubris, however, is destined to forget this essential fact of criminal
life. At the start of their new business relationship, Sosa gives Tony
one main word of warning before anointing him that will in the end, come
back to haunt him.
"Don't fuck me, Tony," Sosa warns.
"Don't ever fuck me."
And when Tony does fuck Sosa by operating on his own, he pits his
organization against Sosa's much larger criminal empire. Though
formidable, it's small change compared to the
power that Sosa -- representing a secret international sodality -- can
bring against him. Tony is inevitably crushed.
Tony Montana is a
surrogate and cat’s paw of larger forces that are more powerful and more
sinister than he can imagine. Because they dwarf his frame of reference
he can’t fathom that they control his actions at all times. This was one
of the main themes of the “Scarface” remake.
It was also one of the main thematic elements of the original “Scarface,”
which was, of course, based on the life, escapades, and death of "Scarface"
As with the real life
Chicago mobster Scarface Al, there are
always connections between the thugs and killers who operate at street
level and the upper echelons who covertly finance them.
At some point, there comes a time to clean up the streets and get rid of
the bad guys. They're no longer needed. A new order is being planned and
the once useful bad guys now present obstacles in the way of progress. A
pretext is needed to go after them and cut them down, one after another.
And the power brokers who've financed the bad guys always find that
It usually comes after the
bad guys start acting like loose cannons. Sounding off and making public
spectacles of themselves.
Pretending to usurp some of the attributes of their secret patrons.
"You're all a bunch of
fucking assholes! You know why? You don't have the guts to be what you
wanna be! You need people like me! You need
people like me so you can point your fucking fingers."
raved Tony Montana in the restaurant scene that marked the final
transition in the movie between success and upward mobility and his
rapid descent into bullet-riddled oblivion.
Right now, as the tenth
anniversary of 911 is upon us, also in many ways marking the close of
the first decade of the 21st century, it was announced that the bad guy
who perpetrated the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center's twin
towers and the Pentagon, and ostensibly would have attacked the White
House had the third plane not been downed, had met his end in a hail of
bullets. Like Scarface, Osama bin Laden was
at first reported to have shown the special forces
operatives his "little friend" before a new set of facts emerged to
supplant the facts originally stated.
Now, a despot who may well
represent the last of the world's global bad guys is beleaguered by a
multinational force in Libya. Moammar
Qaddafi's ouster, like that of another late and unlamented bad guy,
Saddam Hussein -- whose departure was declared necessary to "free the
Iraqi people," just as America went to war in 1991 to "free the Kuwaiti
people" -- is now part of bad guy history. Qaddafi, if the European
Defense Forces, backed by the United States, has its way, will be the
next domino to topple.
If so, Qaddafi will depart
into the gray mists of bad guy history for similar reasons. He has,
after all, stood recalcitrantly against the
democratic upswell which has spontaneously,
and completely unilaterally, sparked a sudden surprise movement for
freedom that the bad guy has so mercilessly crushed.
And of course, those nations who are paragons of freedom and democracy
themselves must slay the dragon that enslaves his own freedom-craving
nationals, just as we've so valiantly done in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Fighting for the cause of freedom is what we do, just because we're us.
is without a doubt a bad guy, just like bin Laden, who I only regret I
couldn't have put a few shots into to pay him back for messing up my
existence when I was caught on the edge of Ground Zero on that fateful
Tuesday morning in September, 2001. I have no problem with the offing of
bad guy Osama. On the contrary, I regret he wasn’t taken out sooner.
When and if Qaddafi goes the way of all bad guys, we can all rest
assured that Libya will stand as the shining epitome of freedom and
democracy before all of wondering mankind, becoming a stellar example of
those admirable qualities of society for all the world to admire and
from which to learn.
We can also be sure that the multinational oil companies, who have
reaped record profits even as the price of crude has jumped to record
highs since the outbreak of the democratic movement in Libya, will play
no part in the reconstruction and reorganization of the country. Of
course we can all equally rest assured that those same multinational oil
cartels won’t take advantage of the change in leadership to further
enrich themselves at the expense of an
Sure we can.
Maybe Qaddafi should have paid more attention to some of the immortal
lines from "Scarface." But like the movie
bad guy Tony Montana, he obviously felt he didn’t need to. He should
have, though. Especially to one of the cardinal rules of the game that
was given to Tony by his first boss Frank Lopez.
It goes like this: "Rule number
one: don't underestimate the other guy's greed. Rule number two: don't
get high on your own supply."
to live by, for sure.