Some of the most important chapters in the history of US foreign policy have a common denominator: Donald Rumsfeld. It was he who designed the plan to invade Iraq in search of weapons of mass destruction that was organised as a response to the 11 September 2001 attack on the Twin Towers, when Rumsfeld was at the Pentagon at the time the planes hit the building in Washington. Chosen to head the Secretary of Defence during George Bush's second term, his goal was to reorganise the military bureaucracy. And although his role was initially to be technical, he ended up changing the world completely.
His family issued an official statement on Thursday, July 1, announcing the death of the youngest (1975) and oldest (2006) Secretary of Defense in US history: "It is with deep sadness that we share the news of the passing of Donald Rumsfeld, American statesman and devoted husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. At the age of 88, he was surrounded by his family in his beloved Taos, New Mexico". It added that "history may remember him for his extraordinary accomplishments over six decades of public service".
For many, he was the most important defence secretary the Americans have ever had. Together with former Vice President Dick Cheney, he designed the shape of the second Iraq War and Afghanistan. It took two years to declare war on the Iraqis led by Saddam Hussein, in one of the most controversial decisions in the country's history and one that was criticised by much of US society. An operation that never found what it was looking for - it did not manage to find the weapons of mass destruction that the United States claimed to be looking for - and which marked a turning point for the entire planet.
Moreover, Donald Rumsfeld made some of the most famous - and incomprehensible - statements in the history of politics when he was asked about the discovery of the weapons they were trying to find in Iraq: "Information that says something didn't happen is always interesting to me, because, as we know, there are known facts that we know; there are things that we know that we know. We also know that there are known unknown facts; that is, we know that there are some things we don't know. But there are also unknown facts that we don't know, those that we don't know that we don't know".
Bush tasked him with restructuring the Defence Department, which was expected to be the biggest since its creation under the Truman presidency in the 1940s. However, he faced a number of obstacles that prevented the Defence Secretary from doing the things he wanted to do and the way he wanted to do them. Rumsfeld wanted to close numerous military bases and abandon some of the weapons programmes he considered obsolete, among other things. And he was opposed by the generals and some of his fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill.
One of the most important figures in the history of his country's foreign policy, he was always known for speaking his mind and has left an indelible mark on the international scene. Donald Rumsfeld was considered a figure of great worth by four presidents: Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush Jr., with whom he was part of the Administration, carving out a career that, though it had its ups and downs, left a lasting mark on US diplomatic relations.