Former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has died, his family announced on Wednesday. He was 88.
The family did not disclose a cause of death but said he died “surrounded by family in his beloved Taos, New Mexico.”
“History may remember him for his extraordinary accomplishments over six decades of public service, but for those who knew him best, and whose lives were forever changed as a result, we will remember his unwavering love for his wife Joyce, his family and friends, and the integrity he brought to a life dedicated to country,” the family said in a statement.
Rumsfeld held the Pentagon’s top post twice, first under former President Gerald Ford from 1975-1977 and then again under George W. Bush from 2001-2006. He was also a three-term congressman and a White House chief of staff to Ford.
Rumsfeld is perhaps best known for his second stint at the helm of the Defense Department during the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the execution of Bush’s globe-spanning “War on Terror” campaign following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
He drew stern criticism for the US’s campaign in Iraq, which was marred by the torture of detainees infamously brought to the public eye in 2004 with damning photos from the Abu Ghraib prison.
The rationale to launch the 2003 campaign – allegations that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction — was also ultimately found to be baseless.
No stockpiles were ever found despite the US remaining in the country for eight years until Bush’s successor, Barack Obama, withdrew American forces in 2011 amid a weary American public eager to end the conflict.
It was taking place simultaneously with the occupation of Afghanistan, the longest war in US history that is just now set to come to an end in September under President Joe Biden.
Rumsfeld ultimately left public service in 2006 when he resigned from the Defense Department, and went on to start an eponymous foundation to promote public service. ■