Rumsfeld keeps four-page list in his desk of how Iraq invasion could go wrong

Donald Rumsfeld has long been famous for his "Rumsfeld's Rules" on how to survive and flourish in a bureaucracy. Now the pugnacious American Defence Secretary has compiled a darker list: of the things that could go wrong in and after a war with Iraq.

The New York Times says it is a four-page or five-page typewritten document he keeps in his desk. The fears he catalogues range from Saddam Hussein "using weapons of mass destruction on his own people, and blaming it on us", to sabotage of Iraq's oilfields and score-settling, factionalism and anarchy after the dictator has been deposed.

Above all, the nightmare is of a prolonged war, leading to high casualties of American forces and of Iraqi civilians, a disaster for the Bush administration in domestic and international opinion.

The word from the Pentagon and most of the news channel pundits is that America's overwhelming military machine will secure a speedy victory, with the Iraqi enemy stunned into surrender. "Awe and Shock" is the informal name of this strategy. But the Times quotes an unnamed senior official saying: "How long will this go on? Three days, three weeks, three months, three years?"

Iraq could be very different from Afghanistan, where the Taliban was overthrown more quickly and with fewer casualties than the Pentagon had dared hope. Another question-mark hangs over the reception of US troops. Optimists say they will be welcomed as liberators. But as the official said: "Will it be cheers, jeers, or shots? The fact is, we won't know until we get there."

A conquered Iraq could pose huge problems. Economically, the biggest danger is of wholesale destruction by President Saddam of his oilfields, on which America is banking for the revenue to rebuild the country. The Pentagon fears wells could be set with explosives deep underground, doing far more long-term damage than in Kuwait's wells in 1991.

The biggest political danger on the Rumsfeld list is of a post-Saddam Iraq plunging into chaos, with factions racing to seize control of what was left of the country's chemical and biological weapons. This would mean a longer, more difficult and more expensive American occupation than is intended.

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