History and Historiography

Donald Rumsfeld, Rot in Hell

By Ben Burgis, The Jacobin

Bush administration Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is dead at the age of 88. It’s a tragedy that Rumsfeld died before he could be put on trial for crimes against humanity.

Donald Rumsfeld just died at the age of eighty-eight. Obituaries at outlets like the New York Times and CNN consistently mention the same memorable but pointless bits of trivia. He was America’s youngest secretary of defense (in the Ford administration) and the oldest (in the George W. Bush administration). He wrote so many memos about so many subjects that they came to be known as “snowflakes.” Arriving at the Pentagon in the 1970s, the Times tells us, he became famous for “his one-handed push-ups and his prowess on a squash court.”

To see the full absurdity of this, imagine an obituary of Slobodan Milosevic that lingered on innocuous details of his office management style and fondness for soccer, or an obituary of Saddam Hussein that focused on how young he was when he formally became president of Iraq in 1979 and his favorite dessert in his Baghdad palace.

Rumsfeld served in a variety of positions in the Nixon administration throughout Tricky Dick’s first term. He left the White House in 1973 to become the US ambassador to NATO, only to return after Nixon’s resignation to become transition chairman and then the White House Chief of Staff for President Ford. He was Chief of Staff until 1975 — the year the last American helicopter left Vietnam. In October of that year, he became secretary of defense.


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