Politics & Policy

Donald Rumsfeld, Former Secretary of Defense, Dies at Age 88

Donald Runsfeld, then–secretary of defense, briefs the media at the Pentagon, September 18, 2001. (Hyungwon Kang/Reuters)

Donald Rumsfeld, who served two non-consecutive terms as secretary of defense under President Gerald Ford and President George W. Bush, has died at the age of 88.

In a statement released Wednesday, the Rumsfeld family paid tribute to their fallen relative and his lifetime achievements.

“It is with deep sadness that we share the news of the passing of Donald Rumsfeld, and American statesman and devoted husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather. At 88, he was surrounded by family in his beloved Taos, New Mexico,” it read.

“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 statement added.

A spokesman for the family told the New York Times that the cause of death was multiple myeloma.

Rumsfeld served during two foreign policy eras, first in the Ford administration and then many years later in the Bush administration. He oversaw policy to deal with Cold War-era Soviet aggression and nuclear threats and the challenges of terrorism and rogue states Afghanistan and Iraq in the early 2000s.

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the American homeland, Rumsfeld presided over the Pentagon’s counter-assault on al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan. He, alongside close partner and companion Vice President Dick Cheney, led the U.S. charge to topple Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who was believed to be harboring weapons of mass destruction, as well as the subsequent U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Rumsfeld defended the U.S. military intervention in Iraq prior to engagement and even after the conflict drained U.S. resources and cost thousands of American lives. Bush eventually fired Rumsfeld in 2006 as the Iraq war spiraled into a quagmire and stalemate that yielded little military advances and progress for the United States. Later, Rumsfeld also oversaw Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

While Rumsfeld’s legacy is colored by his role in shaping U.S. involvement in overseas conflicts, he held his positions in distinction in steadfast service to his nation, both as the youngest person to ever serve as secretary of defense and the second oldest to serve in the role.

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