Donald Rumsfeld, a two-time US defence secretary and architect of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, has died at the age of 88, his family said on Wednesday.
Although he spent decades as a congressman and cabinet secretary to multiple presidential administrations, his legacy was shaped by the decision by President George W Bush to invade Iraq after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Rumsfeld, who had advocated attacking Saddam Hussein’s Iraq even before rejoining government as Bush’s defence secretary in 2001, became the invasion’s leading advocate within the administration. He bore much of the criticism when a quick military victory against Saddam turned into a grinding counterinsurgency, which Rumsfeld had insufficiently planned for.
“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 family said.
“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 added.
A US Navy veteran and Princeton University graduate, Rumsfeld served three terms as a Republican congressman from Illinois in the 1960s, before resigning from Congress to join Richard Nixon’s White House, where he was director of the Office of Economic Opportunity and counsellor to the president. Nixon later appointed Rumsfeld as US ambassador to Nato in Brussels.
After Nixon resigned following the Watergate scandal, Rumsfeld returned to Washington and worked for Nixon’s successor, Gerald Ford, as White House chief of staff. His deputy in that post was Dick Cheney, who would form a life-long alliance with the elder Republican. In 1975, Ford appointed Rumsfeld as secretary of defence, a role he held until 1977.
Rumsfeld then spent several decades in the private sector, including eight years as chief executive of GD Searle & Company, a pharmaceutical company, and four years as chair of Gilead Sciences, another US drugmaker.
Rumsfeld returned to Washington in 2001, when Bush tapped him to once again serve as US defence secretary.