Former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has passed away, announced his family. He was 88 years old. Rumsfeld died in front of his family in New Mexico.
Donald Rumsfeld served under three presidents in Washington. He was the only two-time Secretary of Defense. He held the position from 1975 to 1977 under President Gerald Ford and from 2001 to 2006 under President George W. Bush. Other Rumsfeld roles included Ford Chief of Staff and NATO Ambassador.
Under his leadership, the US Army invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. According to critics, Rumsfeld underestimated at the Iraq war how many troops were needed to create a stable Iraq. He resigned after revelations that U.S. soldiers had tortured prisoners in the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, but Bush did not accept that resignation. It wasn‘t until 2006 that Rumsfeld stepped up after former generals sharply criticized him.
Rumsfeld was known as hardliner, even among the hawks in the Bush government. He is seen as one of the most influential Defence Ministers in the United States, among other things because his intervention to this day has an impact on countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq.
Rumsfeld came to Washington D.C as a Congressman from Illinois in 1963. In the early 1970s President Richard Nixon personally persuaded him to work for him. One of the people Rumsfeld hired was Dick Cheney. Rumsfeld and Cheney later worked together in George W. Bush’s government. Cheney was vice president then.
In 1975 Rumsfeld became Secretary of Defense, with 43 years the youngest ever, after President Ford had reversed his ministerial team. When Ford then lost the election, Rumsfeld went to work in business.
To his own surprise, he was asked to return as Secretary of Defense 25 years later. 68-year-old Rumsfeld again wrote a record in his name: at that time he became the oldest Secretary of Defense ever.
The 9/11 attacks, and especially its aftermath, left a big mark on his career. Rumsfeld was in the U.S. Department of Defense, the Pentagon, when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed near the building. He personally helped with the disposal of injured, until someone reminded him that he had other duties as a minister.
After the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, Rumsfeld prepared another war: the American raid in Iraq, two years later, to dispel dictator Saddam Hussein. It led to a long period of sectarian violence, with critics pointing to Rumsfeld. He had disbanded the Iraqi army and, moreover, did not use enough US troops to preserve stability.
In addition, it became clear that Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction, the US‘s second argument to invade the country. Rumsfeld maintained that he hadn’t known that beforehand. “The president didn‘t lie. The vice president didn’t lie. CIA director Tenet didn‘t lie. Safety Advisor Rice didn’t lie. Congress didn‘t lie. The truth is less dramatic: we were wrong.”
Rumsfeld seemed to have to clear the field when the Abu Ghraib scandal became known. Iraqi prisoners in a U.S. military prison in Baghdad had been abused, humiliated, and even killed. Photos of tortured victims and triumphant US guards became world news in 2004.
“When I realized what happened in Abu Ghraib, I felt like I had got a blunt in my stomach,” Rumsfeld said later. Although he drew up a letter of resignation right away, President Bush refused to accept his resignation.
“The scandal became a damaging distraction. Of all the things I haven’t succeeded, I regret that I didn‘t quit back then,” Rumsfeld wrote later.
Rumsfeld was supposed to stay for more than three years. It wasn’t until the Democrats took power in Congress in 2006 that he knew his time had come. He had become too easy prey for political opponents.
“Like the president, I knew that it is not productive if the Minister of Defence is always called to Congress for party political hearings in the run-up to the 2008 presidential election.”