"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 enormous power.
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."
"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" Al Capone.
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 pretext.
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."
So 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.
Qaddaffi 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 energy-hungry world.
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."
Words to live by, for sure.
Copyright (C) 2012 David Alexander