- Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has died at age 88.
- He served in the role under former Presidents Gerald Ford and George W. Bush.
- Rumsfeld’s role in pushing for the Iraq War became a major liability for Bush in later years.
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Former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who served in the role under former presidents Gerald Ford and George W. Bush and was widely seen as the architect of the Iraq War, has died at age 88.
The Rumsfeld family released a statement shortly after his passing.
“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,” they wrote.
They added: “History may member his 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, an Illinois native, Princeton University graduate, and US Navy veteran, represented a suburban Chicago congressional district in the House from 1963 to 1969.
He was later the US Ambassador to NATO from February 1973 to September 1974 and White House chief of staff under Ford from September 1974 to November 1975, before serving as Defense secretary from November 1975 to January 1977.
Bush tapped Rumsfeld for his second stint at the Pentagon in 2001, and he sought to make the military a leaner organization.
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks changed the trajectory of the nation’s history, and Rumsfeld played a critical role in the guiding the military’s response and its initial attacks on Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
US forces toppled the Taliban from their position of power in the country, and supported a new democratically-elected government.
In 2002, Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney set their sights on the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, with US-led coalition invading the country the next year under the rationale of stopping him from launching attacks with weapons of mass destruction.
No such weapons were discovered, and the Iraq War left the country susceptible to internal sectarian violence.
Where Rumsfeld was once praised for his leadership at the Pentagon, he soon became a lightning rod for opponents of the war.
After photos emerged of US soldiers abusing Iraq prisoners who werebeing held at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, Rumsfeld was blamed for the incident.
He approved harsh interrogation techniques for detainees, and under his leadership, the country opened a special prison at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which drew international scorn from human rights activists.
Rumsfeld resigned from his position after the 2006 midterm elections, which saw Republicans lose their Congressional majorities after Americans began to turn against the war.
He was replaced by Robert Gates, a former director of Central Intelligence.
This post has been updated. Check back for updates.