Donald Rumsfeld, Architect of War in Afghanistan, Is Laid to Rest

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In a quirk of timing, the two-time erstwhile defence secretary’s burial astatine Arlington National Cemetery connected Monday seemed to service arsenic a benignant of coda to America’s 20-year mislaid war.

Donald H. Rumsfeld, a erstwhile  defence  caput   for 2  presidents, astatine  the Pentagon successful  2006.
Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times

Mark Leibovich

Published Aug. 24, 2021Updated Aug. 25, 2021, 9:37 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON — A horse-drawn caisson with a flag-draped coffin passed dilatory done the gates of Arlington National Cemetery connected Monday, a hushed tableau against a metropolis large with recriminations astir the mislaid warfare successful Afghanistan.

The cortege carried Donald H. Rumsfeld, the hard-charging, two-time caput of defence and 1 of the war’s main architects, whose burial connected a sweltering August day served arsenic different coda to the 20-year conflict.

Mr. Rumsfeld died connected June 29, astatine 88, of complications related to aggregate myeloma. The day for his interment and an earlier backstage ceremonial work connected Monday astatine Fort Myer, Va., had been acceptable agelong before, but the timing meant that Mr. Rumsfeld was laid to remainder during the aforesaid benignant of ammunition daze arsenic connected Oct. 7, 2001, erstwhile the United States launched its archetypal airstrikes successful Afghanistan.

And yet, the ceremonies seemed to instrumentality spot successful a contained, parallel universe, sealed disconnected from the strife of Washington. “This was precise overmuch astir the antheral and his times, and not immoderate peculiar contented of the day,” said Larry Di Rita, a apical lawman to Mr. Rumsfeld astatine the Pentagon during the George W. Bush administration.

Say what you volition astir the antheral known arsenic “Rummy,” and galore have, harshly, for turning distant from Afghanistan and waging a warfare successful Iraq that near thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dormant and yet wrecked the extremity of Mr. Rumsfeld’s governmental life. But astatine Memorial Chapel astatine Fort Myers, the eulogists recalled a antithetic man.

“Our superior metropolis has galore acquainted types,” erstwhile Vice President Dick Cheney, Mr. Rumsfeld’s longtime ally, recalled of his closest friend, according to his prepared remarks and confirmed by guests astatine the funeral. “Yet successful each my years astir this institution town, I person ne'er heard anyone described arsenic ‘the Rumsfeld type.’ There is nary specified happening due to the fact that thing astir Don was emblematic oregon derivative oregon standard-issue.”

Mr. Cheney besides brought up immoderate of Mr. Rumsfeld’s signature maxims, which Mr. Rumsfeld would sometimes accommodate from acquainted Washington sayings. “Harry Truman supposedly said, ‘If you privation a person successful Washington, get a dog,’” Mr. Cheney said. “To this, Don added the Rumsfeld corollary: Get a tiny canine — helium mightiness crook connected you.”

The words “Afghanistan” oregon “Iraq” were hardly spoken by Mr. Cheney and a procession of different eulogists, among them Richard B. Myers, the president of the Joint Chiefs of Staff astatine the outset of the wars successful Iraq and Afghanistan, and Victoria Clarke, Mr. Rumsfeld’s longtime communications adjutant astatine the Pentagon.

Ms. Clarke invoked 1 of Mr. Rumsfeld’s favourite sayings, oregon alleged Rumsfeld Rules. “Cemeteries are filled with irreplaceable people,” Ms. Clarke said earlier the burial, quoting her erstwhile boss, but amending the regularisation successful his honor. “Arlington National Cemetery volition soon person idiosyncratic who is genuinely irreplaceable.”

Details of the ceremonial and burial were intimately held by the Rumsfeld household and nary were released publically aft it was over. Guests included Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the president of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who knelt earlier Mr. Rumsfeld’s widow, Joyce, who was successful a wheelchair, and presented her with the emblem from her husband’s coffin.

Others determination were Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, and Paul D. Wolfowitz, Mr. Rumsfeld’s No. 2 astatine the Pentagon who pushed hard for the warfare successful Iraq.

“Mostly, it was conscionable a batch of radical who hadn’t seen each different successful a agelong time, successful immoderate cases since Rumsfeld near the Pentagon,’’ said David Hume Kennerly, the statesmanlike lensman of President Gerald R. Ford’s White House erstwhile Mr. Rumsfeld was Mr. Ford’s main of staff. “And determination were a batch of stories being shared.”

The stories surfaced successful the eulogies, which were often drawn from the wrong of the Pentagon, wherever Mr. Rumsfeld served arsenic defence caput to Ford successful the 1970s and a 4th period aboriginal to President George W. Bush.

“There’s 9/11, of course,” Ms. Clarke recalled, erstwhile Mr. Rumsfeld near his bureau to assistance rescue crews aft a hijacked American Airlines level crashed into the occidental broadside of the Pentagon, sidesplitting each 64 radical aboard the pitchy and different 125 inside. “Many of america were successful the gathering trying to fig retired what had happened,” Ms. Clarke said. “He’s the 1 who went and recovered out.”

A erstwhile Navy pilot, Princeton-educated wrestler and competitory squash subordinate into his 80s, Mr. Rumsfeld’s assertive benignant was good established. “He gave nary quarter, and determination was often humor astatine the extremity of the match,” said Mr. Di Rita, a predominant squash hostile of his boss. “When you played with him, it was fundamentally conscionable Don Rumsfeld being Don Rumsfeld.”

Ms. Clarke besides told the communicative of seeing Mr. Rumsfeld locomotion down to the Pentagon briefing country and prime up a misshapen insubstantial clip helium spotted successful the hallway. He spent the gathering twisting and reworking the lonely insubstantial clip backmost into warring shape.


Credit...Harvey Georges/Associated Press

“Good arsenic new,” helium told Ms. Clarke, holding up the insubstantial clip arsenic helium near the briefing room.

A fewer hours later, a papers was sent down to Ms. Clarke’s office, held unneurotic with that aforesaid insubstantial clip. “Saving the taxpayers’ money,” Mr. Rumsfeld scrawled connected a yellowish Post-it enactment affixed to the restored object.

Understand the Taliban Takeover successful Afghanistan

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Mr. Cheney described the tumultuous play aft Richard M. Nixon resigned the presidency successful 1974, and Mr. Ford was astir to sanction his ain vice president. Mr. Rumsfeld was a finalist for the job, and happened to beryllium astatine Mr. Cheney’s location successful Bethesda, Md., listening connected a room vigor arsenic the process culminated.

“We heard quality reports describing the country astatine the Rockefeller estate,” Mr. Cheney recalled, referring to Mr. Ford’s eventual choice, erstwhile New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller. There was a fleet of sedans extracurricular the mansion, Mr. Cheney noted, with household jets primed to alert the Rockefeller entourage to Washington.

“Don laughed astatine the superior resources Rockefeller brought to the competition,” Cheney remembered. “He said to me, ‘Here’s Nelson Rockefeller with planeloads of radical flying down from New York, and each I’ve got is you, Cheney.’”

Participants said the assembly erupted into laughter, led by the chuckling Mr. Cheney himself. It took a fewer seconds for solemnity to beryllium restored. “Until we conscionable again, goodbye aged friend,” Mr. Cheney said astatine the adjacent of his remarks, his dependable catching, according to a guest, successful a uncommon hint of nationalist emotion.

“I had responsibilities and experiences acold beyond thing I could person ever known,” Mr. Cheney said, crediting Mr. Rumsfeld for each of them. “He decided helium could spot maine and it changed my life.”

Left unsaid, for amended oregon for worse: It changed history, too.

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