Donald Rumsfeld died at the age of 88

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WASHINGTON: Former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, whose reputation as a skilled bureaucrat and visionary of a modern military, was unraveled by the long and costly Iraq invasion, died on Tuesday. He was 88.

In a statement on Wednesday, Rumsfeld’s family said he was surrounded by family in his beloved Taos, New Mexico.

Regarded by former colleagues as equally smart and combative, patriotic and politically cunning, Rumsfeld had a storied career in government under four presidents and nearly a quarter century in corporate America.

After retiring in 2008 he headed the Rumsfeld Foundation to promote public service and to work with charities that provide services and support for military families and wounded veterans.

Rummy, as he was often called, was ambitious, witty, energetic, engaging and capable of great personal warmth. But he irritated many with his confrontational style. An accomplished wrestler in college, Rumsfeld relished verbal sparring and elevated it to an art form; a biting humour was a favorite weapon.

Still, he built a network of loyalists who admired his work ethic, intelligence and impatience with all who failed to share his sense of urgency.

Rumsfeld is the only person to serve twice as Pentagon chief. The first time, in 1975-77, he was the youngest ever. The next time, in 2001-06, he was the oldest.

He made a brief run for the 1988 Republican presidential nomination, a spectacular flop that he once described as humbling for a man used to success at the highest levels of government, including stints as White House chief of staff, US ambassador and member of Congress.

For all Rumsfeld’s achievements, it was the setbacks in Iraq in the twilight of his career that will likely etch the most vivid features of his legacy.

Nine months into his second stint as defence secretary, on Sept 11, 2001, suicide hijackers attacked the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon, thrusting the nation into wars for which the military was ill-prepared. Rumsfeld oversaw the US invasion of Afghanistan and toppling of the Taliban. Frequently presiding at televised briefings, Rumsfeld became something of a TV star, applauded for his blunt talk and uncompromising style.

By 2002 the Bush administration’s attention shifted to Iraq, which played no role in the Sept 11 attacks.

The US-led invasion of Iraq was launched in March 2003. Baghdad fell quickly, but US and allied forces soon became consumed with a furious resistance. Critics faulted Rumsfeld for dismissing the pre-invasion assessment of the army’s top general, Eric Shinseki, that several hundred thousand allied troops would be needed to stabilise Iraq.

Donald Rumsfeld twice offered his resignation to President George Bush in 2004 amid disclosures that US troops had abused detainees at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.

Not until Nov 2006, after Democrats gained control of Congress by riding a wave of anti-war sentiment, did Bush finally decide Rumsfeld had to go. He left office in December, replaced by Robert Gates.

Rumsfeld is survived by his wife, Joyce, three children and seven grandchildren.

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