Donald Rumsfeld

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Donald Rumsfeld was the Secretary of Defense. He and Vice President Richard "Dick" Cheney lead the neo-conservative cabal in the second Bush administration that is responsible for the Iraq Quagmire. His record of failure as foreign policy and military decision-maker exceeds even that of Vietnam War Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. As a neo-conservative Rumsfeld is contemptuous of both objective truth and public transparency. From the perspective of the neo-conservatives, effective leadership is the result of conspiracy and secrecy by a self-conscious political ideological elite.

When events reveal the fallacy of neo-conservative policies, they typically claim that the problem is not with the policy but with public perception of the policy. In may 2005 Rumsfeld complained about the unfavorable content of news coverage of the various Republican war by saying that, "This is really the first war in history that is being conducted in an era of multiple global satellite television networks, 24-hour news outlets with live coverage of terrorist attacks, disasters and combat operations." Source: David B. Caruso. "Rumsfeld Laments Global Reach of War News." Associated Press. May 26, 2006. This is the same whine heard from conservatives when they described Vietnam as the first "television war." Their problem is with public access to the truth and not news media as such. George Orwell wouldn't have had any trouble diagnosing Rumsfeld's gripe.

An October 20-23 poll of 1,013 likely American voters by Zogby International found that a plurality were not yet ready to fire Rumsfeld because of his mishandling of the war in Iraq. Asked the question: "Do you think U.S. defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld should be fired because of the situation in Iraq?" some 49% responded "no" while 42% responded "yes" and 9% responded "not sure." Source: Angus Reid


Some Background

Until being sworn in as the 21st Secretary of Defense, Mr. Rumsfeld was in private business.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1932, he attended Princeton University on scholarship (AB, 1954) and served in the U.S. Navy (1954-57) as a Naval aviator. Rumsfeld arrived in Washington, DC in 1957 as an Administrative Assistant to a U.S. Representative. After a stint with an investment banking firm, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois in 1962, at the age of 30, and was subsequently re-elected in 1964, 1966, and 1968.

Mr. Rumsfeld resigned from Congress in 1969 during his fourth term to serve in the Nixon Administration as: Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, Assistant to the President, and a member of the President's Cabinet (1969-1970); and, as Counselor to the President, Director of the Economic Stabilization Program, and a member of the President's Cabinet (1971-1972).

In 1973, he left Washington, DC, to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Brussels, Belgium (1973-1974). In August 1974, he was "called back" (as if he wasn't an ambitious political appointee) to Washington, DC, to serve in the Ford Administration successively as: Chairman of the transition to the Presidency of Gerald R. Ford (1974); Chief of Staff of the White House and a member of the President's Cabinet (1974-1975); and the 13th U.S. Secretary of Defense, the youngest in the country's history (1975-1977). In 1977, Mr. Rumsfeld was awarded the nation’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Did he ever get the chance to show it off to Saddam Hussein?

Rumsfeld meets his Reagan-era ally, Saddam Hussein.Video | Documents

From 1977 to 1985 he served as Chief Executive Officer, President, and then Chairman of G.D. Searle & Co., a worldwide pharmaceutical company. The successful turnaround there earned him awards as the Outstanding Chief Executive Officer in the Pharmaceutical Industry from the Wall Street Transcript (1980) and Financial World (1981). His chief legacy at Searle was using political connections in the Reagan Administration to gain approval for the controversial sweetener aspartame (Nutrasweet), over the objections of the FDA and the Public Board of Inquiry. From 1985 to 1990 he was in private business.

Mr. Rumsfeld served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of General Instrument Corporation from 1990 to 1993. A leader in broadband transmission, distribution, and access control technologies for cable, satellite and terrestrial broadcasting applications, the company pioneered the development of the first all-digital high definition television (HDTV) technology. After taking the company public and returning it to profitability, Mr. Rumsfeld returned to private business in late 1993. Until being sworn in as the 21st Secretary of Defense, Mr. Rumsfeld served as Chairman of Gilead Sciences, Inc.

During his business career, Mr. Rumsfeld continued public service in a variety of posts, including: Member of the President's General Advisory Committee on Arms Control - Reagan Administration (1982 - 1986); President Reagan's Special Envoy on the Law of the Sea Treaty (1982 - 1983); Senior Adviser to President Reagan's Panel on Strategic Systems (1983 - 1984); Member of the U.S. Joint Advisory Commission on U.S./Japan Relations - Reagan Administration (1983 - 1984); President Reagan's Special Envoy to the Middle East (1983 - 1984); Member of the National Commission on the Public Service (1987 - 1990); Member of the National Economic Commission (1988 - 1989); Member of the Board of Visitors of the National Defense University (1988 - 1992); Member of the Commission on U.S./Japan Relations (1989 - 1991); FCC's High Definition Television Advisory Committee (1992 - 1993); Chairman, Commission on the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States (1998 - 1999); Member of the U.S. Trade Deficit Review Commission (1999 - 2000); and Chairman of the U.S. Commission to Assess National Security Space Management and Organization (2000).

Mr. Rumsfeld's other political connections include membership in the National Academy of Public Administration and being a member of the boards of trustees of the Gerald R. Ford Foundation, the Eisenhower Exchange Fellowships, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and the National Park Foundation. He was also a member of the U.S./Russia Business Forum and Chairman of the Congressional Leadership's National Security Advisory Group.

Rumsfeld is part of the permanent government. is the only Secretary of Defense to serve two non-consecutive terms. He served in the administrations of Gerald Ford and George W. Bush; neither of which were elected as President by popular vote.

In the News

In his book—titled "Jawbreaker"—the decorated career CIA officer [field commander for the agency's Jawbreaker team at Tora Bora, Gary Berntsen] criticizes Donald Rumsfeld's Defense Department for not providing enough support to the CIA and the Pentagon's own Special Forces teams in the final hours of Tora Bora, says Berntsen's lawyer, Roy Krieger. (Berntsen would not divulge the book's specifics, saying he's awaiting CIA clearance.) That backs up other recent accounts, including that of military author Sean Naylor, who calls Tora Bora a "strategic disaster" because the Pentagon refused to deploy a cordon of conventional forces to cut off escaping al Qaeda and Taliban members.
[T]he CIA field commander for the agency's Jawbreaker team at Tora Bora, Gary Berntsen, says he and other U.S. commanders did know that bin Laden was among the hundreds of fleeing Qaeda and Taliban members. Berntsen says he had definitive intelligence that bin Laden was holed up at Tora Bora—intelligence operatives had tracked him—and could have been caught. "He was there," Berntsen tells NEWSWEEK.

See Also


  • "Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don't know we don't know." Source:Plain English Campaign)
  • "We should strive to think through how our words can be interpreted by our troops, by the people of Afghanistan and Iraq, by our 42 allies in our coalition in Afghanistan, and our 34 allies in our coalition in Iraq. And we should consider how our words can be used by our deadly enemy." (Decoded message: any criticism of me helps the enemy.) August 3, 2005 statement before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Source: "Transcript: Opening Statements: U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on Iraq and Afghanistan." CQ Wire Transcripts and Washington Post. August 3, 2006.
  • "Oh, goodness. You know, the experts can, and what they'll tell you is -- they'll start out this way, and they'll say -- and that's their job -- and they'll say: "Well, first of all, it varies in different parts of the country. It's a big country." And it'd be like you asking me, "Well, what's the crime problem in San Diego as opposed to Sacramento or some other part of the state of California?" and it differs in different parts. And what's the composition? And the composition ranges across the following: al Qaeda, foreign fighters, Sunni insurgents, the criminals who get paid by any of those groups, foreign mischief-makers from Iran who are in there trying to foment problems, and then every once in a while you'll get what is characterized as sectarian violence. Sometimes it's spontaneous, but other times it may be that one of the militias or one of the other groups I've just mentioned will want to foment sectarian violence, so that they will go out and take an act that is calculated to get the other ethnic group or religious group to react negatively to it and try to start a civil war. So you have this mixture that's taking place." Source: Secretary Rumsfeld Radio Interview on the Jeff Katz Show, WBT, Charlotte, NC October 26, 2006. (Decoded message: fighting terrorism is like fighting crime.)

Other Interesting Information

Rumsfeld and Tenet were both described by Bush as "Superb". Tenet has since either resigned or was fired, depending on your view of the events. Rumsfeld resigned 8 November 2006, the day after heavy election losses were suffered by his party.

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