Donald Rumsfeld, former Defense Secretary, dies at 88

Donald Rumsfeld, a two-time defense secretary, and once-presidential candidate, has died. His reputation as a skilled bureaucrat, and visionary for a modern U.S. army, was tarnished by the costly and long-running war in Iraq. He was 88.

Donald Rumsfeld, former Defense Secretary, dies at 88

Rumsfeld's family released a statement Wednesday saying that Rumsfeld was "surrounded by his loved Taos, New Mexico"

Rumsfeld was the Pentagon chief under President George W. Bush. He praised his "steady service" as wartime secretary for defense, which he performed with strength, skill and honor.

Former colleagues regarded Rumsfeld as equally intelligent and combative, patriotic, and politically cunning. Rumsfeld served nearly 25 years in corporate America and had a distinguished career under four presidents.

In 2008, he retired and established the Rumsfeld Foundation in order to encourage public service and work with charities that support military families and veterans who are wounded.

"Rummy," as they called him, was witty, engaging, energetic, and capable of great personal warmth. Rumsfeld's confrontational style annoyed many. Rumsfeld was an accomplished college wrestler. He loved verbal sparring and made it into an art form. His favorite weapon was his biting humor.

He still managed to build a loyal network of people who appreciated his intelligence, work ethic and impatience, even though they didn't share his sense for urgency.

Rumsfeld is only person who has served twice as Pentagon chief. He was the youngest person to serve as Pentagon chief in both 1975-77 and 2001-06. He was then the oldest, 2001-06

A brief run for the 1988 Republican presidential nominee was made. It was a stunning flop, which he once described to be humbling for someone who had been a successful leader at the highest levels, including stints as White House chief, U.S. ambassador, and member of Congress.

Rumsfeld's accomplishments aside, his most memorable legacy will be the one that he experienced in Iraq during his final years of service.

Nine months into his second stint as defense secretary, Sept. 11 2001 saw suicide hijackers attack the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon. This thrust the nation into wars that the military was not prepared for. Rumsfeld was responsible for the U.S. invasion and overthrow of the Taliban regime. Rumsfeld was a television star who presided over televised briefings about the war. He was praised for his uncompromising style and blunt talk.

The Bush administration began to pay more attention to Iraq in 2002, which was not involved in the September 11 attacks. The U.S. lost interest in Afghanistan and allowed the Taliban to resurrect the war effort.

In March 2003, the U.S. launched an invasion of Iraq. Baghdad fell quickly but the U.S.-allied forces were soon engulfed in a violent insurgency. Critics criticized Rumsfeld's dismissal of Eric Shinseki's pre-invasion assessment that several hundred thousand allied soldiers would be required to stabilize Iraq.

Rumsfeld offered to resign twice to Bush in 2004 after revelations that U.S. soldiers had abused detainees in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison -- an incident he later called his darkest hour as defense Secretary.

Bush decided Rumsfeld needed to go in November 2006, when Democrats won control of Congress on the back of an anti-war sentiment wave. In December, he was replaced by Robert Gates.

Rumsfeld's wife Joyce, his three children, and seven grandchildren, are still with him

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