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War Criminal Found Dead at 88

Unlike the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, Afghans, and so many others killed in the wars he launched and in the torture cells he oversaw, Donald Rumsfeld died peacefully.

Taking over the Pentagon as secretary of defense for the second time in 2001, Rumsfeld was one of the leading neoconservative ideologues surrounding President George W. Bush who saw the 9/11 attacks in 2001 as an opportunity to go to war. The Washington Post described a conversation between the not-yet president and not-yet secretary of defense in which Rumsfeld told Bush that US military power was needed to discipline the world. “I left no doubt in his mind but that, at that moment where something happens, that I would be coming to him to lean forward, not back. And that I wanted [him] to know that.… And he said, unambiguously, that that is what he would be doing, and we had a clear, common understanding,” Rumsfeld recalled.

War was on the Bush administration’s agenda immediately. On September 12, Bush would give his infamous “We will rally the world” speech, and Rumsfeld began crafting an invasion of Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world. More than anyone else, Rumsfeld was the architect of Bush’s “Global War on Terror.”

Although the mainstream media didn’t report it right away, it quickly became clear that civilian casualties in Afghanistan were unspeakably high. The first survey of civilian casualties determined that the best explanation lay in “the apparent willingness of US military strategists to fire missiles into and drop bombs upon heavily populated areas of Afghanistan.… the critical element remains the very low value put upon Afghan civilian lives by US military planners and the political elite.” Rumsfeld, of course, was both.


Two weeks into the war, Rumsfeld’s press office grudgingly acknowledged that US bombers had indeed dropped cluster bombs, a now-illegal form of weapons, on the village of Shaker Qala, near Herat in western Afghanistan. The bombs killed nine civilians and injured another 14. But Rumsfeld’s office had a bigger problem than that. The cluster bombs were wrapped in bright yellow tape. And at the exact same time, Pentagon planes were dropping food packets for desperate Afghan refugees that were covered with identical bright yellow wrappings. Any famished child running to pick up what looked like a food packet ran a good chance of being blown up by a US cluster bomb. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers, standing alongside Rumsfeld at a press conference, admitted that civilians might confuse the two, but said the United States had no intention of suspending the use of cluster bombs.

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