At Justice, echoes and cries

By Tim Grieve
Published February 15, 2005 2:23PM (EST)

From the Oddest-Thing-Ever-Said-by-a-Man-Involved-in-White-
House-Torture-Policy Department, here's Alberto Gonzales speaking at the Justice Department Monday just after he was sworn in as attorney general.

"Outside these walls, the cries of those powerless souls who are injured, disenfranchised, or otherwise aggrieved may, indeed, be faint. But those same pleas for help echo powerfully within the Department of Justice. Every day, like a steady drum beat, we are asked to provide an answer to a problem, to secure a remedy, to be a champion. And every day, this department responds, as it has done so time and time again throughout the history of our beloved America."

The remarkable thing isn't that Gonzales would invoke the "powerless souls who are injured, disenfranchised, or otherwise aggrieved" when neither he nor his boss has been all that helpful to any of the above. (Think tortured detainees, think voters in Ohio and Florida, think victims of medical malpractice or asbestos poisoning.) What we're struck by is the grammatical disconnect -- the embedded admission of a gulf -- between the "cries" of those "powerless souls" and the actions of the Bush Justice Department.

What happens to the cries? They "echo" through the halls of a Justice Department busy fielding requests to "provide an answer to a problem, to secure a remedy, to be a champion." The Justice Department "responds" to those requests, Gonzales says, and surely it does. It drafts the Patriot Act, it takes the side of Kennneth Blackwell in Ohio, it provides -- at Gonzales' request -- a legal memorandum that clears the way for U.S. troops to inflict unimaginable suffering on men and women in its custody.

Does the Justice Department even hear the "echos" of those "powerless souls"? In an honest sort of silence, the new attorney general does not say.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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