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Nov. 10th, 2009

Analysts studying satellite imagery [in 2003] kept reporting Scud missiles hidden on farms. Each time, a UN convoy would race to the site, chased by cars filled with Iraqi intelligence officers, followed by reporters and TV crews. Sometimes, to confuse the Iraqis, the inspectors sent two or three teams in different directions. But they would all converge on the same spot. And the poor farmer would watch helplessly as two or three dozen cars and vans filled with jabbering foreigners and surly Iraqis suddenly reared into his yard from all directions and demanded he hand over his ballistic missile.

But the missile always turned out to be a rotating steel drum for drying corn. Or a poultry shed.

“Chickens in Iraq are kept in a long, low half-cylinder coop,” [microbiologist] Rocco Casagrande said later. “We inspected a lot of chicken coops. We found out how chickens were fed. How they live. We found out everything there is to know about Iraqi chickens.”

Fed up with wild-chicken chases, Casagrande had a shop print thirty souvenir t-shirts. They showed the UN symbol over the words Ballistic Chicken Farm Inspection Team. Colleagues bought every one.

Bob Drogin, Curveball

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