I sit here thoroughly depressed and deeply moved. Joe Berlinger’s “Whitey: The United States of America V. James J. Bulger” has wrecked me. The case that Berlinger lays out against our FBI and our Justice Department is thorough, damning and terrifyingly true. That Whitey Bulger is a horrible murderous animal is not in question. How the government made use of Bulger during his time being a horrible murderous animal is as criminal as any crime Bulger committed.
Whitey Bulger was not, I repeat, NOT, with emphasis, an upper echelon government informant. Over a 20 to 30 year period when Bulger was seen as a government informant he provided no names and no useful information against his fellow criminals. And yet, Whitey Bulger’s name and position earned the lazy, venal and self absorbed members of a cabal of FBI and Justice Department officials a seemingly endless number of search warrants that led to the arrests of many Italian mobsters.
Now, I’m sure there are some of you who look at the previous paragraph and wonder why this upsets me so. I will explain. You see, the use of Whitey Bulger’s name as an informant was an unspoken trade that allowed Whitey Bulger to rule the streets of South Boston via corruption and murder. All evidence available from as far back as the late 1970’s should have had Bulger incarcerated. Instead, he was protected by the FBI and the Justice Department as part of their crusade against the Italian mob and innocent people died due to that decision.
Human life was reduced to measurements in some chart in the mind of a few people with the power to make such a chart. The lives that might be taken by the Italian mobsters were valued higher than the lives that Whitey Bulger was taking in South Boston. This despite the fact that the cost of Bulger’s criminality was obvious while the Italians was merely assumed.
Who should be allowed to make such a calculation and why? What gives someone the right to ignore right and wrong on one hand in order to serve justice on the other hand. Members of the FBI and the Justice Department made such calculations willingly and knowingly and to this day are not held accountable for having played God and it sickens me. To this day they obfuscate over what they believe to be the greater good; preferring to be morally compromised rather than being forced to confront their failures.
Admitting that Whitey Bulger was not an upper echelon government informant would undo cases against Italian gangsters still in prison today. It would require a massive and expensive clean up operation that would likely take decades to complete. The scandal would destroy the well manicured reputations of hundreds of law enforcement officials and politicians. It’s the right thing to do and our government chooses not to do it because it’s inconvenient.
Nevermind that Michael Donaghue should not be dead. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time when Whitey Bulger and his men were killing another man. We know that Bulger should have been in prison for his many crimes when this shooting takes place and that fact is devastating and heartbreaking. As we watch his brave and forthright wife Patricia and son Tommy go to court for their day in front of Whitey Bulger and we witness the integrity they display in seeing both of the enemies of this case, Bulger and the government, we cannot help but be deeply moved.
To this day, prosecutors maintain their lie because the truth is so very horrible. It demonstrates a lazy, lack of dedication to the law. It unveils a corruption so deep that even seemingly good people like Brian Kelly and Fred Wyshek are revealed to be bad people at heart who are dedicated to maintaining an expedient lie. Mr. Kelly even goes so far as to vilify would be heroes, those that tried and failed to stop the wrong that was our partnership wtih Whitey Bulger. Bob Fitzpatrick deserves so much better than he’s been given for trying to stop Bulger in the 80’s. His reward for years of dedicated service was to be questioned during Bulger’s trial in 2013 as if he were a criminal by people who otherwise agree with him about how truly awful Whitey Bulger is.
Do you see the wrong? We let law enforcement play God and choose who lived and who died. The zest for headlines in taking down the Italian mob allowed Whitey Bulger to kill with impunity simply because he the right name and the right reputation in the right place at the right time. That’s just wrong. Whitey Bulger was a criminal who belonged behind bars and by all rights should have been there when most of the people he killed or ordered to be killed died. Our government let innocent people be murdered because it was convenient in potentially stopping other murders.
I’m angry and depressed and I am thoroughly moved. Joe Berlinger has delivered a film of extraordinary humanity and fairness. Is it a polemic? Yes, it does not flinch from accusing the FBI and Justice Department of corruption. It is however, in the thorough attempt to let both sides be heard that the true crime is exposed. The men who finally put Whitey Bulger behind bars wink and nudge and rationalize what was done and is continuing to be done in a tacit admittance of their guilt. We are challenged to both understand and condemn them for their ungodly choices.
Knowing the futility of my condemnation is what makes the film so powerful for me.