As Special Agent Fox Mulder once observed, “If coincidences are just coincidences, why do they feel so contrived?” He was right, of course, because there is some thing about coincidences that makes us sit up and take notice, while we often look into them for deeper meaning. Regardless of whether or not we can divine some higher purpose behind what some of us might view as synchronicity, it will always command our attention.
Yesterday, the BBC news site reported that Mr Moussa Koussa, Libya’s Foreign Minister, had arrived in Britain by aeroplane, having landed at Farnborough on Wednesday evening. It was certainly a remarkable development, given this man’s standing and the state of hostility that currently exists between Britain and Libya, but it struck me that there was something about this highly unusual event that had the flavour of history repeating itself.
Why? Well, almost exactly 70 years ago, something virtually identical occurred, when Rudolf Hess flew to Scotland on May 10th 1941. You will search this piece in vain for a comparison between Libya and Nazi Germany, but there are a number similarities or coincidences that I couldn’t help noticing, as far as the flights of Mr Moussa Koussa and Rudolf Hess are concerned.
- Both men held extremely high and trusted positions in the governments they once served.
- Both men regularly dealt with foreign affairs as part of their remit. It’s common knowledge that Mr Moussa Koussa was Libya’s Foreign Minister, but it’s perhaps less well-known that Rudolf Hess acted in a similar capacity; to quote the well-sourced Hess Wikipedia entry “Hess had extensive dealings with senior leaders of major European nations during the 1930s. His education, family man image, high office, and calm, forthright manner all served to make him the more respectful and respectable representative of the often otherwise crude and vulgar Nazis. Compared with other Nazi leaders, Hess had a good reputation among foreign leaders.”
- Both men were resident in countries where a state of hostility existed between the governments or regimes of those countries and that of Britain.
- The defection of both men came as a complete surprise.
- Both men chose to fly to Britain of their own free will.
- Both men arrived in Britain from a country to the south, as opposed to one to the north, east or west.
- Both men flew during the hours of daylight, as opposed to travelling here ‘under cover of the night’.
- Neither man received any kind of immunity when arriving in Britain.
- Both were extensively de-briefed by senior British officials, showing that their high status was unquestioned.
- The defection of both men caused great shock in their home countries. The Libyan government initially reacted by saying that Mr Koussa had not in fact defected, while the official line in Germany in 1941 was that Hess had become a victim of hallucinations brought on by his experiences in the First World War.
There are doubtless other similarities, minor and major, but why do I mention The Flight of Icarus? Well, this myth is often paraded, like that of Phaeton, as an example of Hubris and Nemesis, or as a warning of the dangers of over-ambition, something that may or may not have been the case with both Hess and Mr Koussa.
However, Icarus was the son of Daedalus, the architect of the Cretan Labyrinth, the structure in which both Icarus and Daedalus ultimately found themselves imprisoned by King Minos, or a leader with whom they’d fallen out of favour. The Flight of Icarus ended in disaster for Icarus himself, while Hess was placed in the Tower of London and ultimately died in captivity in Spandau Prison.
I have no idea why Mr Koussa flew to Britain almost exactly 70 years after Hess, nor do I know what his hopes for the future might be. However, the official pronouncements on the matter make it clear that the former Libyan Foreign Minister will not receive immunity from prosecution, so for the moment at least, the strange parallels or echoes from history continue.