Donald Rumsfeld, a powerful United States Secretary of Defense who was the chief architect of the Iraq War until President George W. Bush replaced him when the United States became trapped after three years of fighting, has died aged 88, his officials said. family in a statement Wednesday.
“It is with deep sadness that we share the news of the passing of Donald Rumsfeld, an American statesman and devoted husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather,” the statement said. “At age 88, he was surrounded by family in his beloved Taos, New Mexico.”
The statement did not say when Rumsfeld died.
Rumsfeld, who along with Vietnam War Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, are considered the most powerful men to hold the post, brought charisma and bombast to the Pentagon job, reflecting the Bush administration’s muscular approach to world affairs. radiated.
With Rumsfeld in charge, US forces quickly overthrew Iraqi President Saddam Hussein but failed to maintain law and order in the aftermath, and Iraq fell into chaos with a bloody insurgency and violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims. US troops remained in Iraq until 2011, long after he left his post.
Rumsfeld played a leading role in the lead-up to the war by advocating the world’s March 2003 invasion. He warned of the dangers of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, but such weapons have never been discovered.
Only McNamara was Secretary of Defense for longer than Rumsfeld, who had two terms – from 1975 to 1977 under President Gerald Ford, for whom he also served as White House chief of staff, and from 2001 to 2006 under Bush.
Rumsfeld was known for his imperious treatment of some military officers and members of Congress and infighting with other members of the Bush team, including Secretary of State Colin Powell. He also alienated American allies in Europe.
In 2004, Bush twice declined Rumsfeld’s offer to resign after photos surfaced of US personnel mistreating inmates at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad. The scandal led to international condemnation of the United States.
The United States was condemned worldwide after the photos showed US troops laughing, laughing and giving thumbs up as prisoners were forced into sexually abusive and humiliating positions, including a naked human pyramid and simulated sex. A photo showed a prisoner being forced to stand on a small box, his head covered with a black hood, with wires attached to his body.
Lightning rod for criticism
Rumsfeld personally authorized harsh interrogation techniques for prisoners. The US treatment of detainees in Iraq and foreign terrorism suspects in a special prison under Rumsfeld at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, led to international condemnation, with human rights activists and others saying that detainees were being tortured.
He was a close ally of Bush Vice President Dick Cheney, who had worked for Rumsfeld during the Republican presidencies of Richard Nixon and Ford in the 1970s.
Rumsfeld became a lightning rod for criticism, and when the Iraq war was largely a stalemate and public support crumbled, Bush replaced him in November 2006 over Cheney’s objections.
Days after swearing that Rumsfeld would stay for the rest of his term, Bush announced his departure a day after the midterm elections in which Democrats took control of Congress from Bush’s Republicans amid voter anger. about the war in Iraq.
Robert Gates, a mild-mannered but demanding former CIA director, took over from Rumsfeld in December 2006 and made sweeping strategic and military leadership changes in Iraq.
Many historians and military experts blamed Rumsfeld for decisions that led to trouble in Iraq. Rumsfeld, for example, insisted on a relatively small invasion force and rejected the views of many generals. The strength was then insufficient to stabilize Iraq when Saddam fell.
Rumsfeld was also accused of being slow in recognizing the rise of the 2003 uprising and the threat it posed.
The American occupation leader under Rumsfeld, L. Paul Bremer, quickly made two fateful decisions. One disbanded the Iraqi army and put thousands of gunmen on the streets instead of deploying Iraqi soldiers as a reconstruction force as originally planned.
The second even fired younger members of the former ruling Baath party from the Iraqi government, leaving the various ministries essentially empty of the people who had put the government to work.
Rumsfeld also oversaw the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 to oust the Taliban leaders who had housed the Al Qaeda leaders responsible for the September 11 attacks on the United States. Just as he did in Iraq two years later, Rumsfeld sent a small force into Afghanistan, quickly knocked the Taliban out of power, and then failed to bring order.
US troops were also unable to track down Osama bin Laden during Rumsfeld’s tenure. In December 2001, the al-Qaeda chief slipped into the Afghan mountains of Tora Bora past a modest force of US special operations forces and CIA officers, along with allied Afghan fighters. American troops killed him in 2011.
Critics argue that if Rumsfeld had committed more troops to the Afghan effort, bin Laden might have been taken. But as he wrote in “Rumsfeld’s Rules,” his compilation of 1970s platitudes, “If you’re not criticized, you may not be doing much.”
Another quote from “Rumsfeld’s Rules” was equally apt: “It’s easier to get in than to get out.”
Rumsfeld was known for his rambunctious press conferences in which he dabbled with reporters and offered memorable quotes.
Speaking in 2002 about whether Iraq would give weapons of mass destruction to terrorists, he said: “Reports that say something didn’t happen are always interesting to me because as we know, there are known acquaintances. There are things where we know that we know. We also know that there are known unknowns. That is, we know that there are some things that we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
Rumsfeld later called his memoir “Known and Unknown.”
“Things are happening,” he told reporters in April 2003 amid rampant lawlessness in Baghdad after US forces captured the Iraqi capital.
During his time outside of public service, Rumsfeld grew wealthy as a successful businessman, serving as chief executive of two Fortune 500 companies. In 1988, he briefly ran for the Republican presidential nomination in the US.
Rumsfeld also served as a naval pilot, US NATO ambassador and was elected to the US House of Representatives. He and his wife Joyce had three children.