More fitting obituaries for Donald Rumsfeld

The smug and arrogant Rumsfeld, an utterly odious man, died yesterday at the age of 88. In a just world, he would have been tried, convicted, and sentenced to prison for war crimes. But given that he was an American leader and we all know that by definition Americans never commit war crimes, that would never would have happened.

To get a more accurate recounting of his career, we can read Jon Schwarz who calls him a “dreary war criminal” who “managed to do terrible things throughout his life while remaining tremendously banal”.

[L]ess than six hours after the first plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center, Rumsfeld was anxious to “hit SH [Saddam Hussein] @ same time.” And he wasn’t especially concerned whether Iraq or any target was responsible for the attacks. He wanted to conduct “massive” attacks on targets “related & not” (emphasis in original). That is, he saw the deaths of thousands of Americans as a wonderful opportunity to do whatever the George W. Bush administration wanted.

At that moment, Rumsfeld was doing what he did best throughout his life: spinning the unspeakable suffering of others into the desired ends of himself and his political allies.

In retirement, Rumsfeld spent time at his antebellum vacation home on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. Appropriately, it was nicknamed “Mount Misery” and had once been owned by a specialist in “breaking” disobedient slaves. Frederick Douglass was sent there at age 16 for punishment and later wrote, “I was completely wrecked, changed, and bewildered; goaded almost to madness.”

And now Rumsfeld is gone. In a statement, his family said, “History may remember him for his extraordinary accomplishments over six decades of public service … the integrity he brought to a life dedicated to country.” This is likely true for establishment history. For instance, almost none of these details about Rumsfeld appear in the obituary just published by the New York Times. But everyone else should remember who Rumsfeld truly was — and the kind of person you need to be to reach the summit of American power.

Ben Burgis hopes that Rumsfeld rots in hell and mocks the obituaries that focus on trivia.

Donald Rumsfeld just died at the age of eighty-eight. Obituaries at outlets like the New York Times and CNN consistently mention the same memorable but pointless bits of trivia. He was America’s youngest secretary of defense (in the Ford administration) and the oldest (in the George W. Bush administration). He wrote so many memos about so many subjects that they came to be known as “snowflakes.” Arriving at the Pentagon in the 1970s, the Times tells us, he became famous for “his one-handed push-ups and his prowess on a squash court.”

To see the full absurdity of this, imagine an obituary of Slobodan Milosevic that lingered on innocuous details of his office management style and fondness for soccer, or an obituary of Saddam Hussein that focused on how young he was when he formally became president of Iraq in 1979 and his favorite dessert in his Baghdad palace.

Rumsfeld’s most significant personal involvement in crimes against humanity happened later, during his second stint as Secretary of Defense. He oversaw the invasion of Afghanistan, kicking off the longest war in US history.

And it leaves out one of the most gut-wrenching aspects of Rumsfeld’s time in office: his and President Bush’s open embrace of what they called “enhanced interrogation techniques,” or what any human being with a shred of conscience would simply call “torture.” Suspects illegally detained on suspicion of involvement in terrorism (or even involvement in resistance against the invasions of their countries) were tortured under Rumsfeld’s watch in Iraq and Afghanistan, in the notoriously lawless “facility” at Guantanamo Bay, and elsewhere around the world. Some of that was done under the auspices of the CIA. But much of it fell under the purview of Rumsfeld’s department of defense.

In 2006, Berlin attorney Wolfgang Kaleck filed a formal criminal complaint against Rumsfeld and several other American officials for their involvement in torture. Needless to say, Rumsfeld never had to see the inside of a courtroom in Germany or anywhere else.

In that sense, and only in that sense, Donald Rumsfeld died too soon.

An awful, awful man.


  1. mnb0 says

    An awful man indeed, but I don’t really understand why some people rejoice that he’s dead. It doesn’t make the world a better place right now, so the only reason I can think of is hate. That’s not a good emotion if you want to do something about social etc. problems.
    Personally I’m indifferent and that would be the same were he Dutch or Surinamese.

    “Donald Rumsfeld, Rot in Hell”
    I cannot think of a more useless wish, except for some people feeling morally superior.
    Sure I’m capable of hating myself, but I reserve my hate for living people.
    Keep on going, that’s the best way to punish a dead Rumsfeld.

  2. Dago Red says

    Its less rejoicing in someone’s death, but rather the fact that this person’s damaging influences are now gone and I no longer fear what evils they might create in the future — like the sense of relief one feels and celebrates after the doctor says the resection of your cancer was entirely successful. The death of Rumsfeld was the resection of a malignant political tumor.

  3. John Morales says

    mnb0, it need not be hate, but rather mere satisfaction.

    “He was evil, now he’s dead. Good!”

  4. Holms says

    “That’s not a good emotion”

    And yet it is an emotion that people feel toward the man.

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