Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld gestures at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia on January 11, 2005.
Shaun Heasley | Getty Images
WASHINGTON – Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has died at the age of 88, according to a statement released by his family on Wednesday.
“It is with deep sadness that we share the news of the death of Donald Rumsfeld, an American statesman and devoted husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. At 88, he was surrounded by his family in his beloved Taos, New Mexico. ”Read statement without specifying when Rumsfeld died.
“History may remember him for his exceptional accomplishments over six decades in the 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 remember the integrity he has brought to a devoted life to the country. “
Rumsfeld, who served as Secretary of Defense in the Republican administrations of Presidents Gerald Ford and George W. Bush, oversaw the Pentagon’s response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
After the attacks, Rumsfeld led a US military attack on Afghanistan that led to the overthrow of the Taliban, who hosted Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders.
Two years later, Rumsfeld oversaw the US invasion of Iraq, which aimed to oust then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
He also warned of a growing arsenal of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, but such weapons were never discovered.
US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (L) waves next to US President George W. Bush during the Armed Forces Full Honor Review in honor of the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon in Washington December 15, 2006.
Larry Downing | Reuters
Rumsfeld, initially praised for leading the American military into the conflict, was later criticized when the nation grew tired of the war in Iraq.
In 2004, Rumsfeld was charged after photos of US soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.
Rumsfeld personally authorized harsh interrogation techniques for inmates and later oversaw the opening of the internment camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where foreign terror suspects were tortured.
Rumsfeld resigned as Secretary of Defense in 2006 and was replaced by then-CIA Director Robert Gates.
In his memoir, Known and Unknown, Rumsfeld defended his handling of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and later wrote in Rumsfeld’s Rules, a collection of guidelines he used throughout his career: “If you are not criticized, you may don’t do much. “
Before heading the Pentagon, Rumsfeld was President Richard Nixon’s ambassador to NATO. Under Ford, Rumsfeld was White House Chief of Staff, then Secretary of Defense, the youngest person to ever head the country’s largest federal agency.
The US Navy aviator briefly ran for the Republican US presidential nomination in 1988.
In the years after six decades in the public sector, Rumsfeld was CEO of two Fortune 500 companies.
In January, he co-wrote a letter with nine other living defense ministers in the country warning that the US military should play no role in determining the outcome of a US election.
The letter came after then-President Donald Trump refused to give in to Joe Biden in the 2020 election, making baseless claims of widespread electoral fraud.
Former defense ministers, who jointly monitored the US armed forces for nearly 50 years, argued that “the time to question the results of the US presidential election” was over.
“Our elections took place. Recounts and tests were carried out. Corresponding challenges were addressed by the courts. Governors have certified the results. And the electoral college voted. The time for questioning the results is over; the time has come for the constitutional and constitutional vote of the electoral college to be formally counted, “wrote Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, James Mattis, Ash Carter, Chuck Hagel, Leon Panetta, Dick Cheney, William Cohen, Robert Gates, William Perry and Rumsfeld in a comment posted in the Washington Post on Jan. 3.
“Each of us has sworn an oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies at home and abroad. We have sworn it neither to an individual nor to a party,” wrote the former defense ministers.