Donald Rumsfeld, two-time Secretary of Defense and a major architect of the Iraq War, is dead at 88. Also dead: Well over 200,000 Iraqi civilians, and that’s just the reported figures.
Rumsfeld’s family confirmed his death via Twitter on Wednesday, noting that he was “surrounded by family in his beloved Taos, New Mexico.”
“History way remember him for his extraordinary accomplishments over six decades of public service,” read the statement. “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.”
A touching sentiment, one that would perhaps receive more than derisive snorts if Rumsfeld hadn’t been a neoconservative hawk who will be best remembered as the man who set in motion the President Bush’s endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan after Sept. 11th.
Now, nearly 20 years later, Rumsfeld is gone, but he did not die before the hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in both Iraq and Afghanistan, whose deaths he’s responsible for. Unlike them, he lived long enough to see his children and grandchildren grow up; he helped make sure people in Fallujah and Mosul wouldn’t be so lucky.
And let’s not forget how he was also complicit in delaying investigations into sexual assault in the military. To fully understand his imperialist legacy, we must also remember his take on torture at Guantanamo Bay, a hotbed for the United States’s human rights violations. From NPR, emphasis ours:
His position on the treatment of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay also drew scrutiny — and criticism. A memo that detailed how interrogators at the prison camp forced prisoners to stand for 4 hours at a time, bore this handwritten note from Rumsfeld: “I stand for 8–10 hours a day. Why is standing [by prisoners] limited to 4 hours? D.R.”
Rumsfeld resigned as defense secretary in 2006 as Americans expressed outrage over the Iraq War, which was fast becoming a foreign policy liability for the Bush administration.
Rumsfeld largely stood by his actions, though, in his 2011 memoir and in his farewell remarks to the Pentagon in 2006.
“A conclusion by our enemies that the United States lacks the will or the resolve to carry out our missions that demand sacrifice and demand patience is every bit as dangerous as an imbalance of conventional military power,” he said. “It may well be comforting to some to consider graceful exits from the agonies and, indeed, the ugliness of combat. But the enemy thinks differently.”
Rumsfeld only quit when the war became unpopular; at no point in his life did he come to regret his inclination to bomb democracy into the Middle East. He is not the “complicated figure” many obituaries are eager to make him out to be. Sure, he was someone’s grandpa, but he was a tormentor for many more.