Washington, Jun 30 (EFE).- Donald Rumsfeld, who served as US defense secretary on two occasions and played a key role in the invasion of Iraq in 2003, died Wednesday, his family announced in a statement. He was 88.
Along with then-Vice President Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld was part of the hard-line nucleus of officials that pushed for the Iraq War almost two decades ago during the 2001-2009 administration of George W. Bush.
“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,” the family said on Rumsfeld’s Twitter account, adding that he passed away “surrounded by family in his beloved Taos, New Mexico.”
The cause of death was multiple myeloma, a type of cancer that forms in a type of white blood cell called a plasma cell, which help the body fight infections by making antibodies that recognize and attack germs.
Multiple myeloma usually appears only in elderly people, family spokesman Keith Urbahn told The New York Times.
Rumsfeld headed the Pentagon from 1975-1977 under President Gerald Ford and then again from 2001-2006 under Bush.
During his second tenure as defense chief, Rumsfeld supervised the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, which led to the longest war in US history, and then later the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
It was during those years that Rumsfeld became a controversial figure in the US and around the world, criticized for his bellicose nature and remarks, combative style and his accusation that Iraq possessed “weapons of mass destruction,” ostensibly the rationale for the US invasion, a claim that was later proved false.
Even after leaving the Defense Department, Rumsfeld always justified the decisions of the Bush administration on defense ranging from the execution of Saddam Hussein in Iraq to the controversial practices at the US base in Guantanamo, Cuba, where terrorism suspects were tortured.
His family said in their statement, however, that “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.”
In a statement, former President Bush expressed his condolences over Rumsfeld’s death, describing him as “an exemplary public servant and a very good man.”
“He was a faithful steward of our armed forces, and the United States of America is safer and better off for his service,” Bush said, although he did not directly mention the still-controversial decision to invade Iraq.