October 13, 2010
Posted: 1545 GMT
I heard them before I saw them. Canaries happily warbling outside of Hezbollah’s press registration office in Beirut’s southern suburb of Dahieh.
Now, security is tight as always given that this militant Shia political party is considered a terrorist organization by the US and Lebanon’s neighbor Israel. We fully expected a thorough search, since Iranian president Ahmadinejad is about to give a speech to his supporters in Lebanon’s capital, and Hezbollah believes that there is a constant threat of an attack.
The birds, however, quite unexpected.
“Are they here to detect poisonous gas?” I ask our producer Jomana.
“No it can’t be.” She says.
A minute later cameraman Christian Streib comes up with the same question. He was surprised to find these winged creatures next to the checkpoint, happily hopping around in eight cages.
“I remember we had a couple back in 2003 during Gulf war two in Northern Iraq. The first one was called ‘Die Hard’. He did die somehow during our stay. So we bought a second one and called it Died Hard2. I wonder what happened to it’, he ponders.
Luckily, Saddam Hussein never fulfilled his threat to use chemical or biological weapons on US-led coalition troops.
Our theory about the birds is not unfounded. They are often used in mines to detect poisonous gases and they are very receptive to any kind of disturbance in the atmosphere.
While waiting for our gear to be searched, we decided to dispatch Jomana to speak with the Hezbollah officials to get to the bottom of the mystery of the birds.
“Do they have names.” She asks innocently.
“No they don’t” the official responds.
“Why do you keep them here?”
“It’s a hobby”
“Oh, so it's not for security?”
The officials start laughing. “Look at that little green one flapping around” They joke. “They sense that you’re up to something you shouldn’t be.”
“No, seriously, are they for security” Jomana presses them.
“Oh, yes, of course.” They laugh even harder “They tell us things. You know how when you’re young and you’re causing trouble and your mother finds out and says the little birdie told me.”
We were then shuffled into a waiting van with blackened windows to ferry us to the main event, our journalistic curiosity to solve the obscurity of the birds unfulfilled.