Donald Rumsfeld, the controversial defense secretary who played a key role in launching the War on Terror under President George W. Bush, died on Tuesday at his home in New Mexico, The New York Times reported. He was 88.
The polarizing figure’s death was received with both heartfelt tributes and vicious criticism, with some disparaging him in death as a “war criminal” who evaded accountability for his misdeeds.
A long career in Washington
While he had a long career in Washington, Rumsfeld will no doubt be remembered chiefly for his time in the Bush administration. To critics, his legacy is synonymous with the “endless wars” that Bush launched in Iraq and Afghanistan following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
According to The New York Times, Rumsfeld resigned in 2006 under pressure as public opinion turned against the Iraq War, which evolved into a bitter, intractable insurgency following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Upon his death, critics remembered him as an unrepentant warmonger who led America into a disastrous conflict on the false pretense that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and a war criminal who endorsed the brutal torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison and other sites.
The Daily Beast published a damning obituary titled, “Donald Rumsfeld, Killer of 400,000 People, Dies Peacefully,” stating that “the only tragic thing” about his death is that “it didn’t occur in an Iraqi prison,” while the left-wing Jacobin Magazine declared: “Donald Rumsfeld, Rot in Hell.”
Journalist Wajahat Ali, meanwhile, called Rumsfeld an “atrocious human being whose legacy is engineering unlawful, disastrous [and] unnecessary wars that continue to traumatize generations,” according to Fox News.
A warmonger to some, a patriot to others
Some didn’t go quite so far, but were still scathing in assessing his life. Journalist Glenn Greenwald said that any wrongdoing attributed to President Donald Trump by his critics pales in comparison to the “most destructive acts of Donald Rumsfeld and his comrades.”
Still, Rumsfeld was remembered by others as a patriot who served his country honorably.
Former President Bush reportedly praised his “steady service as a wartime secretary of defense — a duty he carried out with strength, skill, and honor,” while GOP Sen. Mitt Romney (UT) called him a “true public servant” who “helped guide our country through some of our most challenging times.”
In his 2011 memoir, Rumsfeld maintained that he had no regrets about the Iraq war.
“While the road not traveled always looks smoother, the cold reality of a Hussein regime in Baghdad most likely would mean a Middle East far more perilous than it is today,” he wrote, according to the Associated Press.