Former Secretary Of Defense Donald Rumsfeld Dead At 88

Photo Credit: Cherie Cullen / Wikimedia Commons

June 30, 2021 – It has been announced former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has passed away. A man who spent the majority of his life involved in politics and nearly a quarter-century in corporate America, he is being remembered for both his combative nature and the charisma he brought to the administrations he served under.

Surrounded by his family

Rumsfeld’s death was announced by his family, who released a statement via his personal Twitter account. According to Keith Urbahn, Rumsfeld’s former chief of staff, the 88-year-old’s cause of death was multiple myeloma. The family’s statement shared that he’d been surrounded by family at the time of his passing.

Rumsfeld family portrait
Rumsfeld family. (Photo Credit: Cherie Cullen / Wikimedia Commons)

“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 reads. “At 88, he was 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,” it concludes.

Early political career

Donald Rumsfeld was involved in U.S. politics throughout his life. He served in the presidential cabinet of Richard Nixon, and found himself appointed Secretary of Defense by President Gerald Ford. At the time, he was the youngest person to ever serve as Pentagon chief, holding the position from 1975 to 1977.

In 1988, he briefly ran for the Republican nomination during that year’s presidential election, but lost. He would later cite this as a humbling moment, as he’d been used to experiencing various levels of success in the highest levels of government.

Donald Rumsfeld speaking with Vice President Nelson Rockefeller
Rumsfeld with Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, 1976. (Photo Credit: Rumsfeld Foundation / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

This included working as the White House chief of staff under Ford, being elected to the House of Representatives during the 1960s, and serving as NATO ambassador. He also served as President Ronald Reagan’s personal representative to the Middle East during the 1980s.

During his time away from public service, he served as the chief executive of two Fortune 500 companies. His skills as a businessman afforded him great fortune and success, and provided his family with financial security.

George W. Bush administration

Donald Rumsfeld’s second stint as Secretary of Defense came during the George W. Bush administration. He served from 2001 to 2006, and oversaw the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. His handling of both has been criticized by fellow politicians, historians, and military experts.

President George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld saying the Pledge of Allegiance
President George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, 2002. (Photo Credit: Eric Draper / Wikimedia Commons)

Rumsfeld sought for the U.S. Army to enter Afghanistan in order to capture members of the Taliban hiding in the country. It was his belief they were harboring the Al-Qaeda leaders responsible for the September 11 attacks in New York, which saw thousands killed and injured.

While he was able to chase out the Taliban from Afghanistan, he failed to establish proper law and order in the country. This was a mistake he would repeat in 2003 after the overthrowing of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. He also failed to capture Osama Bin Laden, who had been hiding out in the country.

Against the recommendations of Eric Shinseki, the Army’s top general at the time, he sent a relatively small number of soldiers to Iraq, instead of the hundreds of thousands of troops Shinseki believed would be necessary to carry out the operation. In order to make a case for invading the country, he discussed the dangers of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, of which there turned out to be none.

Donald Rumsfeld meeting with two British service members in Iraq
Rumsfeld meeting with British soldiers in Iraq, 2006. (Photo Credit: Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley / Wikimedia Commons)

While able to topple the Hussein regime, Rumsfeld failed to notice the insurgency that was bubbling up in the country, which led to widespread violence. At the same time, with the U.S. having shifted its focus to Iraq, the Taliban made a comeback in Afghanistan, overriding the success the military had achieved during the initial invasion.

Offer of resignation and retirement

Throughout his time in government, Rumsfeld was known for behavior that’s been described as “equally smart and combative, patriotic and politically cunning.” There were numerous instances of infighting within the Bush administration, and he was known for his imperious treatment of some U.S. service members. He would also often spar with the media at press conferences.

Rumsfeld was launched into scandal in 2004 after photos leaked, showing U.S. troops in Iraq acting improperly toward prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. The images showed the soldiers smiling and holding thumbs up while the prisoners were forced into abusive and demeaning poses. He also came under fire for the harsh interrogation techniques he authorized.

Rumsfeld and former President George W. Bush shaking hands
Rumsfeld and President George W. Bush, 2019. (Photo Credit: U.S. Secretary of Defense / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0)

Despite offering to resign twice, Bush refused to allow him to leave his position. However, despite vowing to keep Rumsfeld until the end of his term, Bush ended up announcing his departure after the 2006 midterm elections, wherein the Republicans lost the House to the Democrats. The loss of Republican seats was attributed to the public’s anger over the Iraq War.

After his retirement, Rumsfeld headed the Rumsfeld Foundation, which he and his wife founded in 2007. Through it, he promoted public service and worked with charities that provide support and services for those who have served in the military.