Murder at Stockwell
Nearly 50 years ago, in 1956, a British prime minister came to Jamaica to rest and recuperate after a very trying experience. Sir Anthony Eden, the debonair long-time understudy to Winston Churchill, had decided to undertake what must have seemed to him a Churchillian adventure: in concert with the French and the Israelis, he had invaded Egypt with the stated aim of recovering British property - the Suez Canal and, incidentally, to overthrow the Egyptian dictator, Gamal Abdel Nasser.
Nasser, Eden said, had his fingers clamped on Europe's jugular. Unfortunately for Eden the Americans refused to support him and forced the 'Allies' to withdraw. Eden, never a very robust man, suffered a nervous breakdown and came to Jamaica on his doctor's orders.
He stayed at a cottage on the north coast where he was guarded by Jamaican policemen and the British Secret Service. As an old soldier - who had won the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry - Eden always slept with a revolver in his bed.
The night after he got to Jamaica the Secret Service began an elaborate hoax. They reloaded his pistol with blank cartridges armed with bullets carved from soap. The reason: Eden had taken it into his head that the "fuzzy-wuzzies", as he called them, were after him, and almost every night he would awake, dash out into the garden and loose off a few shots to scare the rascals away. The neighbours were understanding.
When he went back to Britain it was to resign and hand over his office to Harold MacMillan, made of considerably sterner stuff. Mr Blair, Britain's current PM, is going on holiday soon, and while I don't think he is in the same case as Eden, I believe his doctors should advise him to take a rest. A really long holiday.
According to Mr Blair just a year ago, intervention in Iraq was necessary to prevent Islamist terrorists and the authoritarian Saddam regime armed with weapons of mass destruction from bringing down nuclear 'Armageddon' on all our heads.
Two Tuesdays ago, Mr Blair was asked at a press conference whether the British-backed and US-led invasion of Iraq had fueled terrorist attacks around the world and in London? Blair said "there is no excuse or justification" for the actions of the bombers.
"Whatever excuse or justification these people use, I do not believe we should give one inch to them, not in this country and the way we live our lives here, not in Iraq, not in Afghanistan, not in our support for two states, Israel and Palestine, not in our support for the alliances we choose, including with America.
Not one inch should we give to these people." He went even further - anyone who believes that Britain's role in Iraq has any connection to the London bombings is a "fellow traveller of terrorism".
To make such a connection was obscene, he said. Clearly he has forgotten what he himself said last year. The pollsters have news for Mr Blair. According to a Daily Mirror/GMTV poll, fully 85 per cent of Mr Blair's constituents are "fellow travellers of terrorism" because they believe that Blair's decision to join the US-led war in Iraq was one of the causes of the London terror bombings
As Andrew Murray said in Wednesday's Guardian, "Tony Blair appears to be on the brink of a Brechtian moment, in which he will need to dissolve the people who have lost his confidence and elect another."
The problem for Blair is that most of us knew, well before it happened, that the invasion could not be justified on any grounds other than as support for George Bush in his grudge fight on behalf of his father and other oil-men against Saddam Hussein.
Hans Blix, former head of the UN inspection team in Iraq, was scathing in his comments about Bush and Blair. The unemotional and very correct Scandinavian diplomat was unequivocal. He told BBC Television last year: "The intention was to dramatise it [the intelligence] just as the vendors of some merchandise are trying to exaggerate the importance of what they have. From politicians, our leaders in the Western world, I think we expect more than that, a bit more sincerity." "Honesty", I believe, was the word Blix was looking for.
Mr Blair's recent vaporings about a "terrorist ideology" apparently "deeply rooted in Islam" has caused the resurgence - with a vengeance - of predictable animus against Muslims and darker skinned people. One in five British Muslims reports harassment of varying degrees within the last three weeks.
They, and other darker skinned people are even more discomfited (and discomforted) by the statement by Blair's namesake, Ian Blair, head of the London Metropolitan police, who has said that the shoot-to-kill policy will remain in place even after the murder of the Brazilian electrician at Stockwell.
Under the law, the police are permitted to use deadly force in defence of life, their own or others' and they must use no more force than is required. Anything else is murder.
So, I was not the only person horrified to watch on the BBC as a very rational Briton described the last moments of Jean Charles de Menezes. He said de Menezes fell into the train under the weight of four or five policemen, and then, when he was immobilised, incapable of action, obviously terrified, in the hands and at the mercy of the police, a left-handed policeman fired his Glock pistol five or six times into the boy's head.
It has transpired that many things the police said then were untrue: de Menezes was not connected to the bombing conspiracy, he was not clad in a bulky coat which could have concealed weapons.
But he had been followed for nearly two miles by several of more than 200 policemen on duty in the immediate area, and he had been followed on foot, on a bus, on foot again and into the underground station before somebody decided that he needed to die.
He was shot eight times, seven times in the head and once in the shoulder. It was the concatenation of institutionalised racism and Mr Blair's institutional hysteria.
I mourn de Menezes, not only because he could have been my son or your brother, but because his death was so totally unnecessary and cruel.
The Brazilians mourn him and the British government paid for his body to be returned to his birthplace in Brazil and are expecting to pay even more for damages for his unlawful killing.
But there is more to mourn: Paul Myers, a reporter for the Guardian, a British-born man of Jamaican parentage, writes eloquently of the new and additional threats to people who wear the uniform of underprivilege.
In a piece entitled 'Black men can't run', Myers writes: "De Menezes acted suspiciously by running" is one line that's wheeled out to abrogate responsibility for a catastrophe. But if you're in an ethnic minority the errors seem to hit you thick and fast throughout your life. It really doesn't take that much for a police officer to be 'suspicious'.
"Like countless other law-abiding black men in the capital, I've been stopped, questioned and searched by police professing to be doing their utmost to protect the community. When I owned a Golf convertible I'd be tailed or pulled over for driving what they suspected to be a stolen car."
Reg Phillips, who some said was my double, was deputy high commissioner for Jamaica in London during the sixties. He was pulled over several times while driving his own car by police who could not believe that someone like him had the right to be driving the car he owned. In the US these days, black people have a word for it - DWB, they call it - Driving While Black.
More than a hundred years ago, W.E.B. du Bois predicted "the problem of the 20th Century will be the problem of the Colour Line". He could have no idea that his prediction would be valid for another century.
Third World Error
The Brazilians, as may be expected, are traumatised by the murder in London of one of their own. According to the Associated Press, President Luis Ignácio Lula da Silva's representative at the funeral, Human Rights Secretary Mario Mamede, told Agencia Estado news: "We cannot tolerate the violation of human rights in the name of combating terrorism."
On Wednesday, President Lula called de Menezes' family in Gonzaga to express his condolences. "The police committed a gross, stupid, third world error," says Maria do Socorro Alves, a cousin of the dead man.
And another relative of de Menezes said it was strange that while in Brazil de Menezes was regarded as white, in Britain he was Black. The colour line in Brazil is as convoluted as it is in North America or Britain.
In a country with a majority black population, most people consider themselves white - part of the vicious legacy of slavery and racism. The situation is similar to Haiti, where an elite boasting a spectrum of skin tones considers itself different from, and superior to, those 'officially black' who make up more than 90 per cent of the population.
So it is perhaps understandable that while Brazil's President Ignácio Lula da Silva can send his foreign minister to question the British foreign secretary over the death one young Brazilian electrician, a Brazilian general in Haiti can lead Brazilian and other troops in the UN "peacekeeping mission" in support of the elite power structure and of the assassins and rapists now ruling Haiti in their name.
The Brazilian human rights secretary can piously intone that "We cannot tolerate the violation of human rights in the name of combating terrorism", but this same minister cannot find the time to give audience to emissaries from Brazilian trade unions and from others who want to discuss with the Brazilian government its complicity in the continuing slaughter of innocent Haitians in the name of combating terrorism on behalf of the Haitian elite, the Americans, the Canadians and the French.
Meanwhile, the clichés and platitudes ooze like toothpaste from a poisoned tube: "We are desperately sorry," says Mr Blair of the death of de Menezes, but he won't allow his soldiers to conduct a body count of the Iraqis they kill.
And of course, to make these points is to incite the fuzzy-wuzzies, to make the natives restless, to be a fellow traveller of terrorism. Except that we are not alone.
All those millions who marched to denounce the war, all those bloggers, journalists and newspaper editors and ordinary people of all races, religions, ages and colours who lent their voices to the protests all over the world against injustice are still here and quite obviously, are still not convinced by Bush, Blair and Co.
It seems there may still be hope for humanity.