Donald Rumsfeld was no stranger to controversy, and that remains the case even in death, with debates raging over his legacy. Four takes:
- A 'patriot': "[We] learned a great deal listening to him," writes the editorial board at the Wall Street Journal, describing Rumsfeld as "a patriot willing to challenge recalcitrant bureaucracies, which we need more of today." The editorial says the senior adviser to three presidents "was most controversial during his second stint as Defense secretary in managing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan." But he helped the military achieve its goals, failing only when "he underestimated the strength and nature of the insurgency in Iraq" and did not change strategy.
- Worst ever? He was "the worst secretary of defense in American history," worse even than Robert McNamara, who oversaw the escalation of the Vietnam War, writes the Atlantic's George Packer. "The chief advocate of every disaster in the years after September 11" reportedly suggested hitting Saddam Hussein within hours of the 9/11 attacks, relied on intelligence obtained through torture, and "insisted on keeping the number of US troops in Iraq so low that much of the country soon fell to the insurgency," Packer writes. "His fatal judgment was equaled only by his absolute self-assurance." And "unlike McNamara, he never expressed a quiver of regret."
- A 'killer': Spencer Ackerman at the Daily Beast is equally blunt, calling Rumsfeld a "killer of 400,000 people," based on estimates of dead from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "The only thing tragic about the death of Donald Rumsfeld is that it didn't occur in an Iraqi prison," he adds, noting Rumsfeld's refusal to facilitate a Taliban surrender in Afghanistan in December 2001 ultimately "reaped a 20-year war." He'll be remembered "in infamy" for his "indifference to the suffering of others," "the unreality he inhabited and the lies he told as easily as he breathed," Ackerman concludes.
- A 'curse': Rumsfeld's friend and former chief speechwriter Matt Latimer acknowledges the "grave consequences" of the Iraq War, Rumsfeld's "last major act on the public stage." "But to see him only through this lens is a disservice to him," he writes at Politico, crediting his former boss with righting the ship after Watergate and hurrying the end of the Cold War. He also "helped a loved one cope with crippling drug addiction while simultaneously managing a war," Latimer writes. His "curse" was that "he was known as such a strategic thinker and hard charging manager" that "people assumed he was responsible for everything."
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