In a statement Wednesday (US time), Rumsfeld’s family said he was “surrounded by family in his beloved Taos, New Mexico.”
Considered by former colleagues to be equally intelligent and combative, patriotic and politically astute, Rumsfeld had a historic career in government under four presidents and nearly a quarter of a century in corporate America. After retiring in 2008, he led the Rumsfeld Foundation to promote public service and work with charities that provide services and support to families of wounded military and veterans.
“Rummy”, as he was often called, was ambitious, witty, energetic, attractive, and capable of great personal warmth. But he irritated many with his confrontational style. An accomplished fighter in college, Rumsfeld enjoyed verbal combat and elevated it to an art form; scathing humor was his favorite weapon.
Still, he built a network of loyalists who admired his work ethic, intelligence, and impatience with everyone who didn’t share his sense of urgency.
Rumsfeld is the only person to have served twice as the head of the Pentagon. The first time, in 1975-77, he was the youngest in history. The next time, in 2001-06, it was the biggest.
Nine months after his second tour as Secretary of Defense, on September 11, 2001, suicide hijackers attacked the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon, pushing the nation into wars for which the military was ill-prepared. Rumsfeld oversaw the US invasion of Afghanistan and the overthrow of the Taliban regime.
The US-led invasion of Iraq was launched in March 2003. Baghdad fell rapidly, but US and allied forces were soon consumed by a violent insurgency. Critics blamed Rumsfeld for dismissing army top general Eric Shinseki’s pre-invasion assessment that several hundred thousand allied troops would be needed to stabilize Iraq.
Rumsfeld twice offered his resignation to President George W. Bush in 2004 amid revelations that US troops had abused detainees at the Iraqi Abu Ghraib prison, an episode he later referred to as his darkest hour as Secretary of Defense.
It wasn’t until November 2006, after Democrats gained control of Congress amid a wave of antiwar sentiment, that Bush finally decided Rumsfeld had to go.
Rumsfeld is survived by his wife, Joyce, three children and seven grandchildren.