Washington: Former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a major architect of the 2003 US invasion and occupation of Iraq, has died at the age of 88, his family said.
“It is with deep sadness that we share the news of the passing of Donald Rumsfeld, an American statesman and devoted husband, father and great-grandfather,” the family said in a statement on Wednesday. “At 88, he was surrounded by family in his beloved Taos, New Mexico.”
A family spokesperson told the New York Times the cause of Rumsfeld’s death was multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer.
Rumsfeld served as Defense Secretary twice, from 1975 to 1977 under President Gerald Ford, for whom he was also White House Chief of Staff, and from 2001 to 2006 for President George W. Bush.
He was a driving force behind the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan but failed during his five years in power to win either war or to capture or kill al-Qaeda (terrorist group banned in Russia) leader Osama bin Laden.
Rumsfeld was the subject of intense criticism for his policies, especially on Iraq and Afghanistan. He also approved several of the most expensive and unsuccessful military systems in recorded history, the Future Combat System, the F-35 aircraft and the Zumwalt-class warship, of which only three were completed instead of the 32 originally planned.
A hard line hawk on national security policies, Rumsfeld also championed the expansion of NATO to include the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. He was a strong supporter of the 2001 PATRIOT Act which vastly increased the powers and surveillance capabilities of the US national security apparatus.
He was also condemned by human rights groups over abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and enhanced interrogation techniques.
Rumsfeld was also known for witty – yet controversial – quotes including the now famous (or infamous) “there are known unknowns” about intelligence matters. He also once rhetorically posed the question: “Are we [the United States] creating more terrorists than we’re killing?”
Current Pentagon Chief Lloyd Austin in a statement extended his condolences to the family and hailed the former leader’s “probing intellect” and abiding commitment to the US.
Austin also said Rumsfeld served in the US Navy from 1954 to 1957 as a pilot and a flight instructor, then continued his service as a reservist until 1975, when he first became Secretary of Defense.