George Packer on the passing of Donald Rumsfeld

I know a lot of these recent daily posts have been about the deaths of prominent or controversial folks, and I figured there was no sense in breaking the trend now. (Honestly, I don’t want this blog to turn into the equivalent of a funeral home’s website, but these recent deaths have been of some interesting figures.)

The most recent is no different. Yesterday, Donald Rumsfeld, the former U.S. Secretary of Defense, died at the age of 88.

An absolute gem of a write-up of his time in office wasn’t far behind him from the Atlantic’s George Packer. He suffered no fools in this absolutely scathing critique of Rumsfeld’s performance on the job and his responsibility for the travesty of the Iraq War.

This excerpt explains it well:

Rumsfeld was the worst secretary of defense in American history. Being newly dead shouldn’t spare him this distinction. He was worse than the closest contender, Robert McNamara, and that is not a competition to judge lightly. McNamara’s folly was that of a whole generation of Cold Warriors who believed that Indochina was a vital front in the struggle against communism. His growing realization that the Vietnam War was an unwinnable waste made him more insightful than some of his peers; his decision to keep this realization from the American public made him an unforgivable coward. But Rumsfeld was the chief advocate of every disaster in the years after September 11. Wherever the United States government contemplated a wrong turn, Rumsfeld was there first with his hard smile—squinting, mocking the cautious, shoving his country deeper into a hole. His fatal judgment was equaled only by his absolute self-assurance. He lacked the courage to doubt himself. He lacked the wisdom to change his mind.

There’s no better time to revisit (or experience for the first time) Errol Morris’s wonderful documentary on Rumsfeld, The Unknown Known, now streaming on Netflix.