Donald Rumsfeld, son of George Rumsfeld, a real state
agent in Chicago, was born in 1932. He studied in the New Trier High School where he became the star of the wrestling team, champion of the state. In Princeton he was captain of the team, a post held two years before by his roommate - also with a brilliant future ahead: Frank Carlucci.

Donald Rumsfeld
Free-Wrestling champion

In 1956 he could not make the Olympic team due to an injury. He became parliamentary attaché in Congress alternating this responsibility with his activity as consultant of the AG Becker investment bank before he began his political career.

In 1962 he was a candidate of the Republican primary elections in Chicago facing the director of an insurance company under federal investigation. One of the then assistants to Rumsfeld, Jeb Stuart Magruder, had the other candidate rigorously interrogated about the scandal. Magruder was later accused of perjury in the Watergate case. However, his work yielded results: Rumsfeld won the primary elections and became a Congressman.

Republican Ascent

In Congress, with many Republicans, he revealed himself as a conservative in the economic field and a moderate in the social field. He supported legislation on civil rights and he fought for the replacement of the military by a regular army. However, his favorite field continued to be that of affairs relating to national security. He also participated in the House Committee on Science and Astronautics, which pays attention to the NASA programs.

The American space agency was then headed by the former scientific elite of the Third Reich [1]. Also because of this interest in strategic matters, he became a member of the Center for Strategic and International Studies [2], founded in 1962 by Richard V. Allen, the conservative Republican that later became national security advisor for Ronald Reagan. Rumsfeld was then one of the first Congress members to regularly visit this think-tank (center for research, propaganda and spreading of ideas, generally of a political nature).

After the huge defeat of Barry Goldwater in 1964, he led the revolt of the Republicans who wanted a change in the direction of the Party, a post then held by Charles Halleck. Heading a group of Republican Congressmen, namely Charles Goodell, Robert Griffin, Albert Quie and Robert Ellsworth, he had Halleck replaced by Gerald Ford and he became one of his closest advisors.

In order to facilitate the election of a Republican for the White House, Rumsfeld began to move away all credible candidates of the Democrats. Thus, he encouraged one of his Democrat friends, Allard K. Lowenstein, leader of the anti-war movement and one of the most liberal members of Congress, to present an obscure candidate to face outgoing president Lyndon Johnson. He was defeated in the primary elections, which again led to a new race for the Democrats’ nomination between Hubert Humphrey and Robert Kennedy but the latter was assassinated on June 5, 1968. The road was clear for the Republicans.

Rumsfeld’s False “Liberal” Period

Humphrey was easily defeated by Nixon, who won in 40 of the nation’s 50 states in spite of having obtained a number of votes comparable to those of the Democrat. After this victory, in which he participated especially as spokesperson of the Republicans, Rumsfeld hoped to continue with his political ascent, but his ambition and support of Gerald Ford earned him strong enemies in Nixon’s team: as a proof, he was removed from his post as president of the Republican party by Bob Haldeman, and also from many posts of the presidential administration.

Although he was extremely critical of legislation against poverty, he finally obtained the presidency of the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO). He also managed to get a post as presidential assistant and an office in the White House. In the framework of his new functions, he chose Richard Cheney as assistant and he recruited Frank Carlucci who had just started a career as a CIA field agent.

The three of them, in different moments, became Defense secretaries. Among its employees, the OEO had William Bradley, a future senator and presidential candidate; Christine Todd Whitman, future governor of New Jersey and manager of the Agency for the Protection of the Environment; and Terry Lenzner, future member of the Senate Commission in the Watergate scandal.

As a result of his policy ahead of the OEO, the press described Rumsfeld as “liberal”, a label that could be detrimental to him in the heart of the Republican Party. Thus, by the late 1970s he decided to get closer to the executive power and obtained a post as presidential advisor in the White House.

Donald Rumsfeld, Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon

The moment was difficult. The US Army was swamped in Viet Nam without any hopes of victory and the war was becoming unpopular. Deep divisions appear in the heart of the presidential administration. Donald Rumsfeld advised not to insist on a no-win situation and to withdraw.

He convinced a small group that included George P. Shultz, then director of the Office of Management and Budget; Clark McGregor, advisor for relations with the Congress; and John Ehrlichman, in charge of domestic policy, to pressure the president to the extent that, in 1971, irritated, Richard Nixon considered to separate from Rumsfeld although he was dissuaded by his personal advisor Henry Kissinger and by the general secretary of the White House, Bob Hademan.

Finally, the three men decided to send Rumsfeld on a two-month «mission» to Europe, accompanied by Robert Finch, to discuss about drug consumption with the European authorities. After his return, Richard Nixon offered him a post that matched his ambitions and at the same time away enough as the US representative before NATO.

Rumsfeld accepted but the President’s closest advisors asked him to wait until the end of the presidential campaign for which the wolf cub could be useful. In effect, he was then closer to John Mitchell and Charles Colson, two specialists on “political blows” who work for Nixon.

According to secret White House recordings of that time, Rumsfeld on various occasions suggested President Nixon to organize operations on his own, thus obtaining information about his political adversaries or triggering his privileged contacts with George Gallup, head of the Gallup Poll Institute, considered a pacifist. Although the effectiveness of these efforts is hard to assess, it is also true that Nixon was re-elected in November 1972.

In 1973 and 1974 Rumsfeld was in Europe, at NATO’s headquarters, when the Watergate scandal broke. Without being affected by the storm, he offered Nixon his support in the case since, in spite of the tensions that are inherent to the exercise of power; there were certain bonds of complicity between them. Nixon respected those who accepted the political competition, particularly if they faced the failures that marked their own path. In that sense, Rumsfeld was different from the President’s other advisors such as Haldeman, Ehrlichman and Kissinger who were satisfied with their status as “men of the shadow”. In addition, he was considered an excellent public showcase for the White House, a very good spokesman.

However, in the turmoil of the Watergate, Nixon disregarded the services offered by his advisor - a stroke of luck for Rumsfeld who was not affected by the scandal. On the contrary, he benefited from it as, after Nixon’s resignation, Vice-president Gerald Ford included him in the transition team.

The Antithesis of Kissinger

Rumsfeld immediately called his closest advisor in Washington, Richard Cheney, who took advantage of the departure of his superior to Europe in order to make incursions into the world of business in a consultancy company. The new team, led by Gerald Ford, was entrusted a simple mission: to reorganize the White House and to design a program of domestic policy but they were not allowed to deal with foreign policy affairs, which remained under the control of Henry Kissinger.

After Gerald Ford assumed office, Kissinger saw his prerogatives in this field broaden and he was, at the same time, State Secretary and National Security Advisor. However, this power of Henry Kissinger regarding the US foreign policy - then based on the concept of “relaxation” with the USSR - was gradually eroded under the influence of Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.

These two men quickly became the predominant figures of the administration of Ford, who appointed Donald Rumsfeld to replace Alexander Haig as general secretary of the White House only a month after assuming office. And Rumsfeld took the post with Dick Cheney as personal assistant. They were both in key positions which gave them a lot of influence in the administration. The infernal duo worked slowly but with a firm pace to get the uncomfortable Henry Kissinger out of the picture. Rumsfeld mainly focused on his allies, namely Nelson Rockefeller, vice-president, and his office director Bob Hartmann. In November 1975, Gerald Ford’s popularity was at its lowest point and he decided to solve the contradictions of his team, simultaneously satisfying the public opinion and the industrial-military complex.

Thus, he dismissed Defense Secretary Arthur R. Schlesinger, who was replaced by general secretary Donald Rumsfeld while Dick Cheney took the post of the latter. At the same time, he confirmed Henry Kissinger as State Secretary thus forcing him to resign his post as National Security Advisor, a position for which he promoted General Brent Scowcroft.

Donald Rumsfeld, Gerald Ford and Dick Cheney, current Vice-President of the United States

Then, he appointed George H. Bush to replace William Colby as CIA Director and, finally, he informs Vice-President Nelson Rockefeller that he would not be part of the next presidential team. This amazing movement was known as the “Halloween massacre” and it marked the shaping of two clans: that of Kissinger, which favored a policy of relaxation and arms control in cooperation with the Soviet Union, and that of Rumsfeld, who was convinced that, after the defeat in Viet Nam, the humiliated public opinion dreamed of greatness and not of commitments.

Giving up his liberal stance of the time when public opinion favored a withdrawal from Viet Nam, the new Defense Secretary became turn into a hawk to guarantee that they would never be defeated again, a change that the Kissinger clan has often described as a political opportunism.

Certainly, his ambitions and strategy serve to explain this change of attitude, but Donald Rumsfeld’s convictions also evolved during his stay in Brussels as US ambassador to NATO as, then, he became aware of the futility of the arms control programs negotiated with the USSR.

During the 1976 presidential campaign, he advised President Gerald Ford to abandon the use of the word “relaxation” fearing that the right, and its ultra-right Republican candidate Ronald Reagan, could take advantage of it during the primary elections. The latter carried out a diplomatic project based on the idea that a restoration of the “foreign policy morality” was necessary.

The strategy produced the expected results in the short term as President Ford, with Bob Dole in the presidential formula, won the primary elections, but it was not enough to beat Jimmy Carter, the candidate of the Democrats, who assumes office on January 1977, the day when Rumsfeld saw his career halted.


Deprived of his political responsibilities in a very short time, without power, Donald Rumsfeld resigned and, like most of the US authorities, tried his luck in the business world. The G.D. Searle & Company in Chicago, which was in serious financial problems, gave him the opportunity. The company was almost going bankrupt; the value of their stocks had decreased from 110 dollars to only 12, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was carrying out an investigation about their methods to experiment with medicament while it refused to accept their latest products, particularly the aspartame.

The Searle family, which financed Rumsfeld’s electoral campaign in Chicago, entrusted him with the post of general director. The former politician then carried out a spectacular transformation: he fired more than half of the company’s 800 employees - 350 of them using especially brutal methods.

In 1980, Fortune magazine placed him in its Top Ten list of «harsh employers». Rumsfeld also knew how to use his political contacts: once in charge of Searle, the FDA restrictions disappeared as if by magic, the investigations were halted and the marketing authorizations, especially for aspartame, were granted [3].

During the following five years, the profits of the company went up 17% annually and their stocks value increased to 30 dollars. Rumsfeld was the first one who took advantage of the situation as his annual salary of 200,000 dollars in 1977 rose to 500,000 in 1982. At that time the number of his stock-options was estimated in around four million dollars.

However, Rumsfeld did not left the political arena completely. In 1979, when the Carter Administration presented a new Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT), he publicly vouched for his hostility before the Senate and, on the contrary, he asked for a 40-billion increase for military spending.

According to a rhetoric that he later used in the Bush Administration, he affirmed that «the situation in our country today is much more dangerous than ever since Neville Chamberlain departed from Munich, triggering World War II».

The turn in the political career of Donald Rumsfeld took place in 1980 with the designation of the vice-president in the presidential formula of candidate Reagan. While the name of Gerald Ford is the one that circulated the most, the negotiations clashed with the vindications of the former president. A replacement had to be found. Richard Allen, one of the people in charge of the campaign, put forward George H. W. Bush because he did not have Rumsfeld’ phone number as he said. Today he says he made a mistake: if Rumsfeld’s name had been put forward he would have certainly become vice-president and had the door open for the supreme magistracy.

Middle East Tour

For two years, the former Defense Secretary stayed away from the Reagan Administration, even though it was one of the most conservative since World War II. This peculiar “desert journey” was due to the animosity of two important figures of the new team in power - Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger, and State Secretary Alexander Haig - toward him.

Rumsfeld accepted to participate in the administration council of Sears World Trade (SWT), a foreign trade company headed by his close friend Frank Carlucci. Actually, the SWT was a CIA front specialized in arms trade [4].

Te attack against the US Embassy in Beirut - on April 18, 1983 - that took the lives of 300 Americans, was the occasion for Rumsfeld to take control again: Ronald Reagan appointed him Special Envoy for the Middle East and put him in charge of finding a way out for the civil war in Lebanon.

Donald Rumsfeld: arms supplier of Saddam Hussein

The diplomat immediately began a tour around the region that kicked off in Iraq - an interesting choice as the United States had not had diplomatic relations with this country since the Six-Day War in 1967. On December 19 and 20, 1983, Rumsfeld met with First Deputy Minister Tarik Aziz and then with President Saddam Hussein.

Defining meetings: according to the diplomatic mail he sent to Washington, the meeting «marks a positive stage in the development of relations between the United States and Iraq and will constitute a new step toward the American positioning in the region».

At that time, Washington tried to use Saddam Hussein’s regime as a counterweight of Teheran that had completely escaped its control. The energy issues were already under discussion: Rumsfeld spoke with President Hussein about a project for an oil pipeline devised by the Bechtel Company, of which - happy coincidence - George Shultz was the general director until becoming part of the Reagan Administration [5].

For its part, Iraq wanted the United States to make the international community comply with the ban on arms sales to Iran, amid the Iran-Iraq war. In Washington, after returning from his diplomatic tour, Rumsfeld warned about the Pentagon’s blindness regarding the Middle East that, in his opinion, could fall under Iran’s control. His criticism was directly aimed at Weinberger’s team, in the Defense Department, and particularly against Richard Armitage, then in charge of the region.

After the attack against the US Embassy in Beirut, the doctrine drawn up by Weinberger and Powell suggested more prudence as to sending troops to the region. Rumsfeld, whose viewpoint we could compare to that of Paul Wolfowitz, affirmed that, on the contrary, the attack represented an excellent opportunity to intervene thus taking control of the Gulf.

The Reagan Administration chose an intermediate method: it did not send troops but it agreed to help Iraq in neutralizing Iran’s influence. On November 26, 1984, Washington re-established diplomatic relations with Baghdad.

Although he continued his career in the private sector, Rumsfeld was still an important character in the American state apparatus as his participation in the Reagan Administration’s coup d’état simulations showed. Officially, it was a matter of preparing the continuity of the executive in case of a “decapitation” of the established power due to a Soviet attack.

Actually, what was thus being prepared was the eventuality of a coup d’état fomented by Vice-President - and former CIA Director - George H. W. Bush after he became aware of the power vacuum caused by the ever increasing senility of President Reagan [6]. James Woosley and Kenneth Duberstein, who like Rumsfeld had been general secretary of the White House, also participated in the simulated “interim” team.

Oliver North is entrusted with the program while it is supervised - the height of irony - by Vice-President Bush himself. During those years, Rumsfeld used to “disappear” a few days every year in different secret bases. Another former general secretary of the White House also participated in these maneuvers: Rumsfeld’s former assistant Dick Cheney.

Each time, a different member of the Reagan Administration played the role of new “president”. The peculiarity of the process on that occasion was that they did not respect the federal laws regarding presidential succession, which corresponded to the vice-president according to the constitution, as the figures chosen were the Trade and Agriculture Secretaries [7].

Private Interests

Thus, Rumsfeld remained in the orbit of the State apparatus and, when his company, the G.D. Searle & Company, was acquired around mid 1985 by Monsanto, he quit his job and even considered participating in the Republican primary elections in 1988 against vice-president George H. W. Bush, for which he had the support of the most conservative wing of the Republican apparatus and of some figures of the Reagan Administration such as Frank Carlucci, then Defense Secretary, and State Secretary George Shultz.

This support had its origin in his campaign that aimed at going ahead Bush regarding its right-wing position thanks to especially aggressive «hawk» rhetoric, particularly against the Soviet Union.

Unfortunately for Rumsfeld, the political context was not favorable: identified with the Reagan-followers of the old school, he faced the competition of the ultra-liberal Reagan-followers: Jack Kemp, who was also supported by neo-conservative personalities like William Kristol.

He also faced the nomination of Reverend Pat Robertson, of the Christian Coalition. In short, the right wing of the Republican Party burst in the 1988 primaries. In addition, Rumsfeld had political limiting factor: he had not been involved in an electoral campaign since 1968, for which the investors did not consider him worthy of trust and he had to quit due to a lack of funding. Thus, in April 1987, he withdrew from the Republican race.

Many gave him up for lost in politics. He linked himself to the private sector for a long period and, in 1990, when his friend Carlucci had already taken the wheel of the Carlyle Group, he was appointed general director of the General Instrument Corporation (GIC), a company of communication cables. For three years he led the company to financial success thanks to his political contacts.

He won the favors of the FCC (Federal Communication Commission), the US body in charge of telecommunications regulation, which until then was only interested in companies that developed analogical television technologies. All of a sudden, the digital television project designed by the GIC attracted the attention of the federal agency, a happy decision that guaranteed the success of the company’s nationalization and allowed Rumsfeld, by the end of the 1990, to have an estimated 50 to 200-million-dollar fortune at his disposal.

However, the former Defense Secretary similarly sold his influence to other companies: in the early 1990s he obtained an authorization so that the Zurich-based ABB society could sell two nuclear reactors to Pyongyang in exchange for the North Koreans’ commitment to abandon their military-nuclear program [8] .

In 1993, he joined the Gulfstream, a company for the production of executive planes acquired by Ted Forstmann. The latter successively created links with other important Republican figures such as George Shultz, Colin Powell and Henry Kissinger, all members of the administration council. According to Le Nouvel Observateur, «in June 1999, when Ted Forstmann sold the Gulfstream to General Dynamics, arms producer, they both had profits of around three million dollars apiece. The business lawyer in charge of the interests of the General Dynamics, at the time of the transaction, William J, Haynes, is currently a collaborator of Donald Rumsfeld» [9]. Rumsfeld’s last action in the commercial field dates back to 1997, when he became general director of Gilead, a company that produces medicines against infectious diseases [10].

Like in Searle, Rumsfeld turn to his address notebook to guarantee the approval of the FDA, which finally authorized the marketing of a medicine to fight smallpox, the Cidofovir, until then under strict control. As a result, the Pentagon incorporated Gilead to its bio-terrorism research and the value of its stocks increased.

Donald Rumsfeld’s methods regarding influence peddling beat those that normally take place in Europe. Some “cases” that remain in the hypothetical field cause special perplexity. That is the case of the bomb attack against a factory of pharmaceutical products in Al-Shifa, Sudan, by the Clinton Administration on August 20, 1998.

With the pretext of destroying a center for the production of weapons of mass destruction, it was actually a factory of generic medicines and Al-Shifa itself what they destroyed in the benefit of the business of Gilead, producer of medicines against malaria and AIDS.

The panic of anthrax in October 2001, besides making people believe in an Islamic terrorist threat in the United States, allowed Gilead to carry out excellent businesses as its smallpox vaccines sales to the Pentagon increased which also contributed to an incredible appreciation of the group, acquired in 2002 by Karl Hostetler for 460 million dollars [11].

Conquering the White House

Rumsfeld’s financial success did not kill his political ambition. In the spring of 1996 he accepted to lead Bob Dole’s campaign and, thus, he met Paul Wolfowitz, whom he entrusted with the writing of his speeches on foreign policy [12]. It was another failure for Rumsfeld: on January 20, 1997, a Democrat, Bill Clinton, swore-in again as President of the United States. The Wolfowitz-Rumsfeld duo did not abandon the scene, but quite the opposite.

Bob Dole and Donald Rumsfeld

Rumsfeld’s hitherto useless efforts to gain access to the White House, first as Reagan’s vice-president and then when he faced George W. H. Bush during the Republican primary elections of 1988 and finally as director of the campaign of Republican candidate Bob Dole in 1996, finally produced results.

Paradoxically, it was when he betted for the son of the former president, George W. Bush, that the neo-conservatives guaranteed the success of his ideology. Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld contributed at length to the shaping of this triumphal epoch. Since 1998, they subscribed together the Project for a New American Century, an open letter encouraging President Clinton to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Yesterday’s ally had become Rumsfeld’s best excuse to deploy American troops in the Gulf.

In parallel with this, he also participated in the “Foreign Policy” division of the Congressional Policy Advisory Board, organized in the Republican Party by Martin Anderson in order to design a neo-conservative foreign policy financially supported by the Hoover Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. There, Rumsfeld often visited his friends Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and George Shultz, who were soon joined by his former adversary Casper Weinberger and candidate Bush’s protégée: Condoleezza Rice.

The works of this team, which acted in parallel with the Vulcains group [13], were based on those carried out by the Investigations Commission of congress, presided over by Rumsfeld and which was in charge of assessing the possibility of a ballistic attack against the United States. Designed taking the model of the “Team B” on the Soviet Union as a starting point, this commission, above all, had to make credible a possible attack against the United States by an enemy missile so as to justify the military spending asked by the republicans for the implementation of an anti-missile shield.

Paul Wolfowitz, an expert in imaginary threats, was at the side of Donald Rumsfeld. According to their conclusions, the threat was very real, particularly from countries such as North Korea, Iran and Iraq, three countriesthatwouldlater be included by George W. Bush in the so-called “Axis of Evil”.

In its final report, presented to the press on January 11, 2001, the commission stated: «History is full of situationsin which warnings have been ignored and changes have not taken place until an alien event, until them considered as “unlikely”, comes to force the hand of reluctant bureaucracies. The dilemma here is to know if the United States will act with wisdom and responsibility to reduce - as quickly as possible - its space vulnerability, or if, as is has already happened in the past, the only element capable of galvanizing the energies of the nation and forcing the US government to attack should be a destructive attack against the country and its population, a “space Pearl Harbor”».

Questioned by journalists on other eventual threats not coming from the above mentioned countries, Donald Rumsfeld spoke of a possible space attack with an aircraft that some Osama Bin Laden would be ready to launch from a secret base in Afghanistan. The continuation is already known.

[1See «CSIS, the intertwined paths of petroleum», Voltaire, February 2, 2005

[2During the following 20 years, the FDA reported several thousands of complaints that attributed several side effects to the aspartame (migraine, memory loss, loss of vision, ...) See «La face cachée de Donald Rumsfeld», por Christophe Grauwin, Le Nouvel Observateur, French magazine, May 27, 2004

[3«Le Carlyle Group, une affaire d’initiés», Voltaire, February 9, 2004

[4«La face cachée de Donald Rumsfeld» (The hidden side of Donald Rumsfeld), in French, op.cit. Réseau Voltaire

[5«The Attempted Coup d’État of March 30, 1981», in George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography, by Webster G. Tarpley & Anton Chatkin

[6The legal and constitutional order of succession was the following: the vice-president, then the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the president pro tempore of the Senate and, finally, the members of the administration in the order of the creation of their posts, starting with the State Secretary, the Secretary of the Treasure and the Defense Secretary

[7«Rummy’s North Korea Connection», by Richard Behard, Fortune, April 28, 2003

[8«La face cachée de Donald Rumsfeld», op.cit

[9In a book published in 1985, The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, Gilead is the name given to the United States after a military dictatorship - supported by the people that are willing to change their rights for security - takes power. («La face cachée de Donald Rumsfeld», op.cit.).

[10See: «Intoxication à l’anthrax» (Anthrax Intoxication) in French, by Paul Labarique, Voltaire, March 10, 2004

[11«Paul Wolfowitz, l’âme du Pentagone» (Paul Wolfowitz, the Soul of the Pentagon) in French, by Paul Labarique, Voltaire, October 4, 2004

[12The Vulcains group, created by Condoleezza Rice to serve as an advisor of candidate Bush on foreign issues, includes, among others, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Armitage, Richard Perle and Dov Zakheim

[13The purpose of this Team B, - created in 1976 by CIA Director Gerald Ford, George H. W. Bush and chaired by Richard Pipes, father of Daniel Pipes - was to reassess the Soviet threat, allegedly underestimated by the accommodated experts of the Agency. Young Paul Wolfowitz was already one of its members