Donald Rumsfeld, Two-Time Defense Secretary, Dies At 88

Donald Rumsfeld, who served as Secretary of Defense when President George W. Bush sent U.S. military forces into Afghanistan in pursuit of al-Qaeda and into Iraq to topple the Saddam Hussein regime, has died at the age of 88 in Taos, New Mexico.

Rise To Prominence: Born in Chicago on July 9, 1932, Rumsfeld graduated from Princeton University in 1954 with a bachelor’s degree in politics. He attended Case Western Reserve University School of Law and Georgetown University Law Center, but did not graduate from either school and instead entered the U.S. Navy, serving from 1954 to 1957 as a naval aviator and flight instructor. He transferred to the Naval Reserve in 1957 and remained part of that service until retiring with the rank of captain in 1989.

Rumsfeld went to Washington in 1957 and served as a congressional aide to a pair of Republican legislators before successfully running for the Illinois 13th congressional district in 1962. He was re-elected three times and resigned in 1969 to become director of the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity within President Richard M. Nixon’s administration.

Rumsfeld left his directorship in December 1970 but remained in an advisory role within the Nixon White House before becoming U.S. Ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in February 1973. When Nixon resigned, his successor Gerald R. Ford named Rumsfeld as White House chief of staff. In October 1975, he was confirmed as secretary of defense, a position he held through January 1977. Ford presented Rumsfeld with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his service in government.

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Return To The Pentagon: After leaving the Defense Department, Rumsfeld held chief executive positions at several corporations including the pharmaceutical firm G. D. Searle & Company, the technology company General Instrument Corporation and the biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, Inc. GILD.

Rumsfeld also held several positions in President Ronald Reagan’s administration, including special envoy to the Middle East, when he met Saddam Hussein in Baghdad in December 1983, special envoy on the Law of the Sea Treaty and a member of the National Economic Commission.

Rumsfeld briefly sought the Republican presidential nomination for 1988 but dropped out ahead of the primaries, switching his focus to become national chairman for Sen Bob Dole's campaign. George H.W. Bush won the primary and the election and did not offer Rumsfeld any position in his administration.

Bush’s son George W. Bush brought Rumsfeld back to the Pentagon in 2001 in what would arguably become one of the most controversial tenures in the history of the position of secretary of defense. Rumsfeld was a vocal advocate for starting a war against Saddam’s Iraq after the 9/11 attacks, even though there was no evidence of Iraqi involvement in the attacks against the American mainland. Later claims by the Bush administration that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction turned out to be false.

While a multinational force joined U.S. troops in the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan to dislodge al-Qaeda’s presence in the country while overthrowing the Taliban dictatorship, the U.S. decision to wage war against Iraq splintered the U.S. from many of its allies.

The Iraq occupation by the U.S. military was marred by accusations of human rights abuses against prisoners and a failure to unite the nation’s rival factions.

In 2004, Rumsfeld was the subject of a criminal complaint filed by a German prosecutor who accused him of war crimes. His relation with military brass within the Pentagon and NATO frayed dramatically, and he resigned after the 2006 midterm elections that saw Democrats gaining control of both chambers of Congress.

Rumsfeld's Final Years: Rumsfeld established a foundation in 2007 that sought to encourage public service and published an autobiography in 2011. He was the subject a 2013 documentary by Errol Morris called “The Unknown Known” and, unexpectedly, release an app in 2016 for digital solitaire players.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once called Rumsfeld "the most ruthless man" he knew.

Former President Bush released a statement that said Rumsfeld was “an exemplary public servant and a very good man.”

(Photo: U.S. National Archives.)

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Posted In: NewsPoliticsGeneralAfghanistanDonald RumsfeldGeorge W. BushIraq WarObituaryPentagontrendy story
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