Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who oversaw Iraq war, dies at 88

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld gestures at the Pentagon January 11, 2005 in Arlington, Virginia.

Shaun Heasley | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has died at the age of 88, according to a statement released Wednesday from his family.

“It is with deep sadness that we share the news of the passing of Donald Rumsfeld, an American statesman and devoted husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather.  At 88, he was surrounded by family in his beloved Taos, New Mexico,” the statement read.

“History may remember him for his extraordinary accomplishments over six decades of public service, 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.”

Rumsfeld, who served as the Secretary of Defense in the Republican administrations of Presidents Gerald Ford and George W. Bush, oversaw the Pentagon’s response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

On the heels of the September 11 attacks, Rumsfeld directed a U.S. military attack on Afghanistan that led to the toppling of the Taliban. Two years later, Rumsfeld oversaw the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a move aimed at removing then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (L) waves next to U.S. President George W. Bush during the Armed Forces Full Honor Review in Honor of the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon in Washington December 15, 2006.

Larry Downing | Reuters

Rumsfeld, who initially earned praise for leading America’s military into conflict, was later criticized as the nation grew war-weary of the Iraq War. In 2004, Rumsfeld was blamed after photographs of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners detained at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad emerged.

Rumsfeld resigned as Secretary of Defense in 2006 and was replaced with Robert Gates.

Before leading the Pentagon, Rumsfeld served as President Richard Nixon’s ambassador to NATO. Under President Ford, Rumsfeld served first as White House chief of staff, then as Secretary of Defense, the youngest person ever to lead the nation’s largest federal agency.

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