Washington: Former US secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld died Tuesday, at 88.
Rumsfeld's family in a statement on Wednesday, said he was surrounded by family in his beloved Taos, New Mexico. President George W. Bush, hailed his steady service as a wartime secretary of defense a duty he carried out with strength, skill, and honour.
The top US bureaucrat was a fierce champion of the long and costly war in Iraq and was very much in the limelight espousing the US cause in the Middle East during the tenure of President George W Bush. He was defence secretary for another term during 1975-77.
Known for being smart and combative, patriotic and politically cunning at the same time, 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 favourite 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 both as the youngest and the oldest in the position, the first in 1975-77, and the second in 2001-06.
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.
It was nine months into his second tenure as defense secretary, on Sept. 11, 2001 that the attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York took place which triggered wars, worldwide US interventions and redefined international relations for most countries in the world.
By 2002 the Bush administration's attention shifted to Iraq, which played no role in the Sept. 11 attacks. The war effort in Afghanistan was overtaken by US's focus in Iraq, opening the way for the Taliban to make a comeback and prevent the U.S. from sealing the success of its initial invasion.
The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was launched in March 2003 which put Ramsfeld much in media focus. Baghdad fell quickly, but U.S. and allied forces soon became entangled in an insurgency that pitched the US forces in the region for long with barely an exit strategy and which saw internal violence that was just the opposite of what the US had projected as its justification for the intervention – peace in the region.
News of Rumsfeld's death broke overnight in Iraq, where the U.S. overthrow of Saddam Hussein and disbanding of Iraqi security forces ushered in years of unremitting sectarian killings and car bombs at the hands of rival armed factions.
It deprived us of an ordinary life, said Rasha Al Aqeedi, now a U.S.-based analyst from the Iraqi city of Mosul. Daily curfews, an explosion here, a suicide attack there. A consistent sight of death everywhere. Al Aqeedi joined other Arabs Wednesday in tweeting of Rumsfeld's blame in the invasion.
The legacy he left behind ... the Iraq war, has been such a stain on Americans' foreign policy, she said. It shaped how an entire generation views any intervention by the United States.
Rumsfeld twice offered his resignation to Bush in 2004 amid disclosures that U.S. troops had abused detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison an episode he later referred to as his darkest hour as defense secretary.
Not until November 2006, after Democrats gained control of Congress by riding a wave of antiwar 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.
(Based on PTI feed with minor edits)