[pjw] NEWS: Donald Rumsfeld, defense secretary for GW Bush, dies
Peace and Justice Works
pjw at pjw.info
Wed Jun 30 17:14:22 EDT 2021
Iraq Affinity Group supporters
I wasn't sure whether to send out this news about Donald Rumsfeld dying,
but was alarmed at the Denver Post headline (on an AP story) that popped
up when I did a web search: "Donald Rumsfeld, a cunning leader undermined
by Iraq war, dies at 88." Cunning leader? Undermined by the illegal war he
You go to the afterlife with the human rights record you have, not the one
you wish you had.
(To coin a phrase.)
peace and justice works iraq affinity group
Donald Rumsfeld, a cunning leader undermined by Iraq war, dies at 88
By Robert Burns | The Associated Press
PUBLISHED: June 30, 2021 at 2:26 p.m. | UPDATED: June 30, 2021 at 2:34
WASHINGTON -- Calling Donald H. Rumsfeld energetic was like calling the
Pacific wide. When others would rest, he would run. While others sat,
he stood. But try as he might, at the pinnacle of his career as defense
secretary he could not outmaneuver the ruinous politics of the Iraq
Regarded by former colleagues as equally smart and combative, patriotic
and politically cunning, Rumsfeld had a storied career in government
under four presidents and nearly a quarter century in corporate
America. After retiring in 2008 he headed the Rumsfeld Foundation to
promote public service and to work with charities that provide services
and support for military families and wounded veterans.
The two-time defense secretary and one-time presidential candidate died
Tuesday. He was 88.
"Rummy," as he was often called, was ambitious, witty, engaging and
capable of great personal warmth. But he irritated many with his
confrontational style. An accomplished wrestler in college, Rumsfeld
relished verbal sparring and elevated it to an art form; a biting humor
was a favorite weapon.
Still, he built a network of loyalists who admired his work ethic,
intelligence and impatience with all who failed to share his sense of
From his earliest years in Washington he was seen by friend and foe
alike as a formidable political force. An associate of President
Richard Nixon, Bryce Harlow, who helped persuade Rumsfeld to resign
from Congress and join the Nixon Cabinet as director of the Office of
Economic Opportunity in 1969, called him "rough and ready, willing to
tangle" and "the kind of guy who would walk on a blue flame to get a
Rumsfeld is the only person to serve twice as Pentagon chief. The first
time, in 1975-77, he was the youngest ever. The next time, in 2001-06,
he was the oldest.
He made a brief run for the 1988 Republican presidential nomination, a
spectacular flop that he once described as humbling for a man used to
success at the highest levels of the government, including stints as
White House chief of staff, U.S. ambassador and member of Congress.
For all Rumsfeld's achievements, it was the setbacks in Iraq in the
twilight of his career that will likely etch the most vivid features of
By the time he arrived at the Pentagon in January 2001 for his second
stint as defense secretary, the military that Rumsfeld inherited was in
a slow-motion transition from the Cold War era to a period dominated by
ethnic conflicts in the Balkans, humanitarian crises in the Horn of
Africa and spasms of terrorism. Among the other prominent worries:
China's military buildup and the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North
But nine months into his tenure, on Sept. 11, Rumsfeld found himself
literally face-to-face with the threat that would consume the remaining
years of his tenure. When a hijacked American Airlines jetliner slammed
into the Pentagon, Rumsfeld was in his third-floor office meeting with
nine House members. He later recalled that at the instant of impact,
the small wood table at which they were working trembled.
Rumsfeld was among the first to reach the smoldering crash site, and he
helped carry the wounded in stretchers before returning to his duties
inside the building.
The nation suddenly was at war. U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan on Oct.
7, and with Rumsfeld at the Pentagon helm the Taliban regime was
toppled within weeks. Frequently presiding at televised briefings on
the war, Rumsfeld became something of a TV star, admired for his
Within months of that success, President George W. Bush's attention
shifted to Iraq, which played no role in the Sept. 11 attacks. Rumsfeld
and others in the administration asserted that Iraqi President Saddam
Hussein was armed with nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, and
that the U.S. could not afford the risk of Saddam one day providing
some of those arms to al-Qaida or other terrorist groups.
The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was launched in March 2003 with a
go-ahead from Congress but no authorization by the U.N. Security
Council. Baghdad fell quickly, but U.S. and allied forces soon became
consumed with a violent insurgency. Critics faulted Rumsfeld for
dismissing the public assessment of the Army's top general, Eric
Shinseki, that several hundred thousand allied troops would be needed
to stabilize Iraq.
Square-jawed with an acid tongue, Rumsfeld grew combative in defense of
the war effort and became the lightning rod for Democrats' criticism.
Years afterward, the degree of blame that should be shared among the
White House, Rumsfeld and the U.S. military for the disasters in Iraq
remained in debate.
In his 2009 biography of Rumsfeld, author Bradley Graham wrote that it
was "both incorrect and unfair to heap singular blame" on Rumsfeld for
"But much of what befell Rumsfeld resulted from his own behavior,"
Graham wrote in "By His Own Rules." "He is apt to be remembered as much
for how he did things as for what he did. And here, too, he was an
internal contradiction. Capable of genuine charm, kindness and grace,
he all too frequently came across as brusque and domineering, often
alienating others and making enemies where he needed friends."
In his 2011 memoir, "Known and Unknown," Rumsfeld offered no hint of
regret about Iraq, but acknowledged that its future remained in doubt.
"While the road not traveled always looks smoother, the cold reality of
a Hussein regime in Baghdad most likely would mean a Middle East far
more perilous than it is today," he wrote. He sounded unconvinced that
the failure to find WMD in Iraq poked a hole in the justification for
"Our failure to confront Iraq would have sent a message to other
nations that neither America nor any other nation was willing to stand
in the way of their support for terrorism and pursuit of weapons of
mass destruction," he wrote.
Rumsfeld twice offered his resignation to Bush in 2004 amid disclosures
that U.S. troops had abused detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison -- an
episode he later referred to as his darkest hour as defense secretary.
Not until November 2006, after Democrats gained control of Congress by
riding a wave of antiwar sentiment, did Bush finally decide Rumsfeld
had to go. He left office in December, replaced by another Republican,
Robert Gates. Defiant to the end, Rumsfeld expressed no regrets in his
farewell ceremony, at which point the U.S. death toll in Iraq had
surpassed 2,900. The count would eventually exceed 4,400.
"It may well be comforting to some to consider graceful exits from the
agonies and, indeed, the ugliness of combat," he told his colleagues.
"But the enemy thinks differently."
Born in Chicago as the second child of George and Jeannette Rumsfeld,
Rumsfeld wrote in his memoir that he and his father shared a favorite
sports team: the Chicago Bears of the National Football League. He
recalled that while listening to a Bears game on the radio at home one
Sunday in 1941, the announcer interrupted the broadcast to announce
that Japanese airplanes had launched a surprise attack on Hawaii.
Rumsfeld was 9 years old.
"I could feel that something terrible had happened," he wrote. "I saw
it in my parents' faces and heard it in the tense voices reporting the
news of the attack."
After Pearl Harbor, Rumsfeld's father joined the Navy at age 38 and the
family moved frequently to be near him on the West Coast.
In high school he met his future wife, Joyce Pierson. He entered
Princeton on a partial scholarship and joined the campus Navy ROTC
program to cover his other expenses. In June 1954, Rumsfeld graduated
and was commissioned an ensign in the Navy. Six months later he married
He launched his Washington career in 1957 by signing up as an assistant
to Rep. Dave Dennison, R-Ohio. Soon he was serving as a congressman
himself, first elected to represent Illinois in 1962. He served four
One of his early acts as a member of the Nixon White House was to hire
a young Dick Cheney, starting a lifelong friendship.
Rumsfeld was working as the U.S. ambassador to NATO in Brussels,
Belgium, when he was recalled to Washington to lead President Gerald
Ford's transition team after Nixon resigned in August 1974. He became
the new president's chief of staff and then, in November 1975, his
After leaving the Pentagon in 1977, Rumsfeld embarked on a successful
business career in the private sector, including as chief executive
officer, president and then chairman of G.D. Searle & Co., a major
prescription drug manufacturer.
He still dabbled in government service, including serving as a special
envoy to the Middle East for President Ronald Reagan in 1983-84. It was
in that capacity that he famously met in Baghdad in December 1983 with
Saddam, whose nation at the time was at war with Iran.
"None of us in the Reagan administration bore any illusions about
Saddam," Rumsfeld wrote in his memoir. "Like most despots, his career
was forged in conflict and hardened by bloodshed. He had used chemical
toxins in the war he initiated with Iran three years earlier. But given
the reality of the Middle East, then as now, America often had to deal
with rulers who were deemed `less bad' than the others."
Two decades later, Rumsfeld was again dealing with Saddam -- this time
overseeing an invasion that toppled the tyrant and led, ironically, to
Rumsfeld's own downfall.
He is survived by his wife, Joyce, three children and grandchildren.
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