Iraq war architect and controversial politician Donald Rumsfeld dies at 88

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Former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has died aged 88.

His relatives paid tribute to his "extraordinary accomplishments over six decades of public service" and "unwavering love" to his wife and loved ones.

He served as Secretary of Defense from 1975 to 1977 under president Gerald Ford, and again from 2001 to 2006 under George Bush – when he led the US into war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

A statement from the family of Ronald Rumsfeld read: "It is with deep sadness that we share the news of the passing of Donald Rumsfeld, an American statesman and devoted husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather. At 88, he was surrounded by family in his beloved Taos, New Mexico.

"History may remember him for his extraordinary accomplishments over six decades of public service, but for those who knew him best and whose lives were forever changed as a result, we will remember his unwavering love for his wife Joyce, his family and friends, and the integrity he brought to a life dedicated to country."

He was born in Illinois and graduated from Princeton University with a degree in political science before serving in the Navy for three years.

Rumsfeld married Joyce P. Pierson on December 27, 1954. They have three children, six grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

He became a congressman in Illinois's 13th Congressional District aged 30 in 1962 and went on to back the Freedom of Information Act.

President Richard Nixon appointed him to head the Office of Economic Opportunity in 1969 and he was later made ambassador to NATO.

President Ford then called him back to Washington and made him chief of staff.

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Rumsfeld recruited Dick Cheney, who would become George Bush's vice president, to take over his role when he was then made Secretary of Defense in 1975.

The politician became president and CEO of pharma corporate G.D. Searle & Company after Ford lost the election in 1976.

He was later named CEO of General Instrument from 1990 to 1993 and chairman of Gilead Sciences from 1997 to 2001.

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Rumsfeld played a key role in the invasion of Afghanisant and Iraq after he was appointed Secretary of Defense for a second time in January 2001 by President George Bush.

In the wake of the 9/11 atrocity, he claimed that Iraq had an active weapons of mass destruction program, but none have been found.

A Pentagon Inspector General report found that Rumsfeld's top policy aide "developed, produced, and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and al Qaida relationship, which included some conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community, to senior decision-makers".

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He was also mired in controversy over American use of torture and the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal, leading to his resignation in late 2006.

In his retirement years, he published an autobiography Known and Unknown: A Memoir as well as Rumsfeld's Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life.

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