Donald Rumsfeld, who served as defence secretary during the U.S’s deadly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has died aged 88.
Rumsfeld oversaw the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Both conflicts resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths.
Before the war in Iraq, Rumsfeld made the case to the world for the invasion, warning of the dangers of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction but no such weapons were ever discovered.
The total number of Iraqi civilian deaths is unknown. The Iraq Body Count project places the number of deaths since 2003 between 185,724 and 208,831, as of June 30.
Rumsfeld also oversaw the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 to remove the Taliban leaders who had harboured the al-Qaeda leaders responsible for the September 11 attacks on the U.S.
Rumsfeld twice offered his resignation to President George Bush in 2004 amid disclosures that U.S. troops had abused detainees at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison – an episode he later referred to as his darkest hour as secretary of defence.
H held the defence secretary position until November 2006 when he was replaced by Robert Gates.
Rumsfeld, who served in the US Navy in the 1950s, enjoyed a long political career under four different presidents and was widely regarded as a visionary of a modern U.S. military.
He was the only person to serve twice as Pentagon chief, firstly as the youngest ever person to hold the position from 1975-77 and later as the oldest between 2001 and 2006.
After retiring in 2008 he went on to head the Rumsfeld Foundation and focused on promoting public service, spending his time working with charities that provide services and support for military families and wounded veterans.
Rumsfeld “was surrounded by family in his beloved Taos, New Mexico”, his family said in a statement posted on Twitter, without saying when he died. “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,” they said.
In a separate statement, Bush praised Rumsfeld as “a man of intelligence, integrity, and almost inexhaustible energy” who “never paled before tough decisions, and never flinched from responsibility.”
He is survived by his wife, three children and seven grandchildren.