July 25, 2021

Donald Rumsfeld, former US secretary of defense and architect of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is dead

Former US Secretary of Defense and Iraq War Architect Donald Rumsfeld died on June 29, at the age of 88, on his ranch in Taos, New Mexico. “Falcon” among the “hawks”, he had been, at 43, the youngest secretary of defense that the United States had known, under Gerald Ford, between 1975 and 1977; then the oldest, at 74, when George W. Bush called him to the Pentagon in 2001. From the prison of Guantanamo (Cuba) to that of Abu Ghraib (Iraq), his name remains attached to some of the darkest pages of the “Global war on terrorism”, the concept he claimed after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

University wrestling champion Donald Rumsfeld has never departed from a combative style, in constant conflict with members of Congress or military orthodoxy. A great friend of Dick Cheney, the vice-president of George W. Bush, who had been his protege in the Ford administration, he was one of the most powerful defense secretaries of the post-Vietnam war. During his second stay at the Pentagon, he imposed what was called the “Rumsfeld doctrine”, or war adapted to new threats, waged with a minimum number of troops. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that old land conflicts resist the new paradigms of « war on terror ».

From a family of Illinois realtors, Donald Henry Rumsfeld was born July 9, 1932 in Evanston, a suburb of Chicago. A brilliant student, he studied at Princeton, with an army scholarship, before enlisting as a naval pilot. On his return to civilian life, he embarked on politics and was elected in 1962 to represent a wealthy constituency in the State. He is only 30 years old. Slender, sure of himself, he is compared to a “Republican JFK”. His career went from strength to strength: re-elected three times to Congress, he was appointed by Richard Nixon to the office of economic opportunity, an agency for the fight against poverty – of which he slashed the workforce – then ambassador to NATO (1972 -1974), which allows him to escape the purge according to Watergate in Washington. Gerald Ford made him his chief of staff (his deputy was then Dick Cheney, eight years his junior).

A messianic fight against “Islamic fascism”

Between his positions in the administration, Rumsfeld made his fortune in the private sector, at the head of the pharmaceutical group Searle (now Pfizer), the telecommunications company General Instrument, then the biotechnology laboratory Gilead from 1997. In 2001, George W. Bush brings him out of his political retirement and entrusts him to the Pentagon. A counterintuitive choice. Rumsfeld has always been the political rival of his father, George H. Bush, on the 41e President. He even ran against him in the Republican primaries for the White House in 1988. But Dick Cheney imposed his old friend on the neophyte who was then the former governor of Texas.

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