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Donald Rumsfeld, an American Statesman, Dead Just Shy of His 89th Birthday

Donald Rumsfeld was at the center of GOP leadership for decades. He was not only a Republican power broker but also defense secretary and at the helm of the Iraq War. Rumsfeld died on Tuesday just a few days before his 89th birthday, according to his family’s report on Wednesday.

“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 family said in a statement.

“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,” the statement continued.

Donald Rumsfeld’s death was due to multiple myeloma, according to his spokesman, Keith Urbahn.

President George W. Bush selected Rumsfeld for the chief of the Pentagon. This was his second time in that position. He aimed to make the military bureaucracy more lean and agile. But everything changed on September 11th with the attacks in New York and at the Pentagon.

Rumsfeld oversaw the Pentagon’s quick response and its initial attack on al-Qaida bases in Afghanistan. By early 2002, Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney focused the Pentagon’s attention on Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Rumsfeld was born in Chicago in 1932, he graduated from Princeton University, where he was a collegiate wrestler and commissioned as a U.S. Navy aviator and flight instructor. He then served on active duty from 1954-57.

Rumsfeld won his first term as a Republican congressman from Illinois in 1960. He resigned in 1969 and took a post in the Nixon administration, according to his congressional biography.

Rumsfeld was chosen in 1975 to serve as the 13th defense secretary – the youngest person to hold that position in the country’s history, according to the Department of Defense’s historical website. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Gerald Ford.

He worked in the private sector for 23 years, but then Rumsfeld returned to his formerly held position, assuming the role of the 21st secretary of defense in Bush’s administration in January 2001.

Rumsfeld’s Pentagon received urgent requests from commanders in the field for armored trucks known as Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs. Those requests were shelved or delayed.

“As you know, you go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time,” Rumsfeld said in 2004. “You can have all the armor in the world on a tank, and a tank can be blown up. And you can have an up-armored Humvee, and it can be blown up.”

Rumsfeld’s successor, Robert Gates, made MRAPs the Pentagon’s top priority after reading a report in USA TODAY about their effectiveness.

By 2006, the wars and Rumsfeld’s handling of them had become a political liability for Bush. He fired Rumsfeld shortly after the midterm elections and replaced him with Gates.

“Nothing ever ends,” Rumsfeld said to The Washington Post on Aug. 22, 2001. He was referring to congressional oversight and meddling, but he was also producing a proverb for Washington D.C. “There’s no sunset on things. And it all happens a little bit at a time.”

There is now sunset on a significant life. Donald Rumsfeld is gone, but his legacy and the controversy surrounding his service lingers.