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Photo: Brendan Snialowski/AFP via Getty images

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has died at the age of 88, his family said Wednesday.

The big picture: Rumsfeld led the Department of Defense on 9/11 and at the start of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

  • Rumsfeld is the only person to serve as defense secretary twice. Under Gerald Ford (from 1975-77), he was the youngest person to lead the Pentagon. Under George W. Bush (from 2001-06), he was the oldest.

Rumsfeld oversaw the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and the toppling of the Taliban.

  • Afghanistan, however, saw a resurgence of the Taliban as the Bush administration shifted focus and resources to Iraq.

Rumsfeld in Iraq "waged a costly and divisive war that ultimately destroyed his political life and outlived his tenure by many years," the New York Times notes.

  • U.S. forces quickly brought down Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, but failed to maintain law and order there.
  • In his 2011 memoir, "Known and Unknown," Rumsfeld defended the war, writing, “Ridding the region of Saddam's brutal regime has created a more stable and secure world."

Rumsfeld also had stints as White House chief of staff, U.S. ambassador to NATO, and a member of Congress.

  • He briefly sought the 1988 Republican presidential nomination, in a run described by AP as "a spectacular flop."

What they're saying: “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," his 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.”
Then-President George W. Bush meets with his cabinet at the White House, including Secretary of State Colin Powell (L) and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in 2002. Photo: Brooks Kraft/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Bush in a statement Wednesday called Rumsfeld "a man of intelligence, integrity, and almost inexhaustible energy, he never paled before tough decisions, and never flinched from responsibility."

Rumsfeld is survived by his wife, three children and seven grandchildren.

  • He died of multiple myeloma, according to his former chief of staff, Keith Urbahn, per the Times.

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

Go deeper

Updated Sep 11, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Bush alludes to Capitol rioters' “determination to defile national symbols” in 9/11 speech

Former President George W. Bush on Saturday warned of homegrown violent extremism while speaking at the Flight 93 memorial on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Driving the news: "We have seen growing evidence that the dangers to our country can come not only across borders, but from violence that gathers within," said Bush, who joined Vice President Kamala Harris and others at the ceremony.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
40 mins ago - Energy & Environment

China vows end to building coal-fired power plants abroad

Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: Mary Altaffer - Pool/Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping told the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday that his country "will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad" and plans to boost support for clean energy in developing nations.

Why it matters: The pledge, if maintained, would mark a breakthrough in efforts to transition global power away from the most carbon-emitting fuel.

House Democrats strip Iron Dome money from government funding bill

Photographer: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

House Democrats on Tuesday stripped $1 billion for Israel's Iron Dome defense system from its short-term government funding bill after backlash from progressives, people familiar with the decision tell Axios.

Why it matters: There has never a situation where military aid for Israel was held up because of objections from members of Congress. While the funding will get a vote in its current defense bill, the clash underscores the deep divisions within the Democratic party over Israel.