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Former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld dies at 88

Agencies/Washington
Filed on June 30, 2021
Donald Rumsfeld. — Reuters file

As Pentagon chief and defence secretary, Rumsfeld oversaw US war on terror in Afghanistan and Iraq


Donald Rumsfeld, a forceful US defence secretary who was the main architect of the Iraq war, has died at age 88, his family said in a statement on Wednesday.

He served as the defence secretary until President George W. Bush replaced him as the US found itself bogged down after more than three years of fighting.

“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. At 88, he was surrounded by family in his beloved Taos, New Mexico,” the statement read.

“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.”

Rumsfeld, who ranks with Vietnam War-era defence secretary Robert McNamara as the most powerful men to hold the post, brought charisma and bombast to the Pentagon job, projecting the Bush administration’s muscular approach to world affairs.

With Rumsfeld in charge, US forces swiftly toppled Iraqi President Saddam Hussein but failed to maintain law and order in the aftermath, and Iraq descended into chaos with a bloody insurgency and violence.

Rumsfeld played a leading role ahead of the war in making the case to the world for the March 2003 invasion. He warned of the dangers of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction but no such weapons were ever discovered.

Rumsfeld was known for 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 US allies in Europe.

In 2004, Bush twice refused to accept Rumsfeld’s offer to resign after photos surfaced of U.S. personnel abusing prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad. The scandal triggered international condemnation of the United States.

The United States faced global condemnation after the photos showed US troops smiling, laughing and giving thumbs up as prisoners were forced into sexually abusive and humiliating positions. One photo showed a prisoner forced to stand on a small box, his head covered in a black hood, with wires attached to his body.

Rumsfeld personally authorised harsh interrogation techniques for detainees. The US treatment of detainees in Iraq and foreign terrorism suspects at a special prison set up under Rumsfeld at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, drew international condemnation, with human rights activists and others saying prisoners were tortured.

He was a close ally of Bush’s vice president, Dick Cheney, who had worked for Rumsfeld during the 1970s Republican presidencies of Richard Nixon and Ford.

Rumsfeld became a lightning rod for criticism and, with the Iraq war largely a stalemate and public support eroding, Bush replaced him in November 2006 over Cheney’s objections.





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