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Known and Unknown: A Memoir Paperback – May 29, 2012

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 832 pages
  • Publisher: Sentinel Trade; Reprint edition (May 29, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159523084X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595230843
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 5.9 x 2.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (197 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #355,785 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“A serious stab at telling the history of a consequential period in America through the eyes of one of its most consequential players.”
—PETER BAKER, The New York Times
“I don’t care whether you’re . . . a liberal or a conservative or something else: If you’re interested in this period of history, the book is a total feast.”
—JAY NORDLINGER, National Review
“A meaty, well-written book that will be a primary source for historians . . . This power memoir deserves to be read with the care that went into writing it.”


"I would heartily recommend it. I don't think anybody could go buy a book written by anybody who has been more intimately involved, closer to power, for as many years, has been through as much, has known all of the power players as you have. It is amazing."
-Rush Limbaugh (interview transcript)/2/8/2001

"Readers might be appreciative to find themselves in possession of a serious memoir, more in keeping with the older Washington tradition of Dean Acheson or Henry Kissinger. As might the historians."
-Kimberly Strassel/Wall Street Journal/2/8/2011

"The battle is joined. After a long silence, Donald Rumsfeld opened both barrels Tuesday, releasing his memoir, Known and Unknown . Early leaks of the book's defiant take on his life, times, and conduct of the Iraq War drew howls from some of the targets of his score-settling...But Rumsfeld battles on, taking his unapologetic account to the public."
-John Barry/Newsweek-The Daily Beast/2/8/2011

"The book places the reader in Rumsfeld's chair and is a serious stab at telling the history of a consequential period in America through the eyes of one of its most consequential players. It will be an important addition to the history of our time."
-Peter Baker (New York Times White House correspondent)/Foreign Policy/2/9/2011

Rumsfeld "describes the highs and lows of a long and dramatic career and discloses some behind the scenes details that may shock you."
-Sean Hannity (interview transcript)/2/9/2011

"Known and Unknown is a meaty, well-written book that will be a primary source for historians...this power memoir deserves to be read with the care that went into writing it."
-Christopher Buckley/Businessweek/2/10/2011

"'Dismissive' is a word often used to describe Rumsfeld, but 'dismissive' perfectly describes his critics, who are unwilling or unable to re-examine their own assumptions in the light of new or overlooked information and fresh perspective provided by Rumsfeld, in his exceedingly well-documented work. With its hundreds of annotations and supplementary documents, Known and Unknown is a significant contribution to the historical record. It is, as Rumsfeld once noted about similar memoirs, 'only from one perspective,' but it's a unique and valuable perspective, a serious work that deserves consideration by any serious student of recent history."
-Jamie McIntyre (former CNN Pentagon correspondent)/Line of Departure/2/10/2011

"It is a terrific book...Let me tell you something, it is absolutely fascinating. He's very blunt in talking about people and issues and so forth, you'll really enjoy it, in my humble opinion."
-Mark Levin (interview transcript)/2/10/2011

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Donald Rumsfeld was the 13th and 21st U.S. Secretary of Defense. He currently chairs the Rumsfeld Foundation, which supports leadership and public service at home and the growth of free political and free economic systems abroad. The Rumsfeld Foundation funds microfinance development projects, fellowships for graduate students interested in public service, the development of young leaders from Central Asia and the Caucasus, and charitable causes that benefit the men and women of the U.S. armed forces and their families.

Customer Reviews

Sure, the book comes off like he is defending the decisions he made.
Honestly Speaking
I enjoy reading memoirs always have, this book was very well written and enjoyable to read.
The book illustrates how main stream media have distorted the facts and misled public.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

259 of 308 people found the following review helpful By Jason VINE VOICE on February 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover
My intentions going into this book were to simply read what Rumsfeld believes, what he remembers. With a critical eye, however, I also planned on looking for any inconsistencies, any contradictions, during his storied political years of experience. What I found led me to the title of the review; Rumsfeld's memoirs are from naturally from his perspective, but provide little to truly argue with other than anecdotal information, which can be very difficult to prove or disprove. Naturally, all can't be covered in the confines of this review (which is gigantic to begin with), but I found two primary recurring themes while reading these memoirs (which are, incidentally, very interesting), and one topic of discussion that is sure to draw the most ire:

1) Bipartisanship - In terms of thought as well as allegiance, Rumsfeld was not always unary.

2) National Defense - Throughout an illustrious career, he has held many positions that all eventually deal with national defense. His thoughts and actions are truly eye-opening.

3) The Bush Years - There will be the most disagreement with this portion of his recollections, but his recounting of events is infallible unless one allows political dogma to overrule reason.


What struck me most of all while reading Rumsfeld's memoirs were his extensive private and public sector experiences, and how evenly he managed to deal with nearly all he encountered. Obviously a lifelong Republican, his admiration for Reagan and Nixon are apparent during their respective historical chapters/sections, his praise was measured and fair. While he appreciated Gerald Ford's steadfastness, he also noted the naïvety shown by Ford and JFK while younger.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
His career ended in controversy equivalent to what Robert McNamara absorbed when his tenure came to an end as Defense Secretary during the Viet Nam War. Both men probably feel considerable remorse at actions not taken, and paths not followed. That is the nature of war. General Eisenhower during the Normandy invasion was quoted as saying the most important thing in war is planning, and then after the first contact with the enemy, you are basically improvising.

I think like most Americans, I have my own issues with Rumsfeld, and still have quite a few of them. This book goes a long way towards clarifying the reader's understanding of government, the role of government, and the participants in that government. After 726 pages of narrative I found no great surprises, but if your goal is to fill in your understanding of this period in American history from the 1960's through the present, than we both have come to the right place. Rumsfeld possesses a finely tuned mind, and the unflinching ability to make a decision right or wrong, and then EXECUTE BRILLIANTLY. One of the issues for this man is to what extent he executed BAD decisions BRILLIANTLY.

No one who reads this autobiography will question the man's patriotism, or desire to see America continue to dominate the world scene as the world's sole remaining superpower. We will all question his judgments, and how he executed those decisions when he was the point man making the decisions. This book covers Donald Rumsfeld's entire life, and it is an extraordinary life, and very much worth studying.
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61 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Hussain Abdul-Hussain on February 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In 1968, a congressman from Illinois, only 36 years old, interviewed a 27-year-old for the position of intern. Even though the applicant did not impress the congressman and failed to get the job, a friendship started between the two men that would prove to influence the history of the United States and the world. The congressman was Donald Henry Rumsfeld. The intern applicant was Richard Bruce Cheney, or Dick Cheney, America's 46 vice president under George W. Bush.

The anecdote is one of many in Rumsfeld's 800-page memoir, Known and Unknown.

The book interestingly opens with Rumsfeld telling the story behind one of the most played footages on TV before, during and after America's Operation Iraqi Freedom: A younger Rumsfeld shaking the hand of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in Baghdad.

Rumsfeld, who served as chief of staff for President Gerald Ford and secretary of defense under Bush II, was also President Ronald Reagan's special envoy to the Middle East. The former envoy puts his 1983 visit to Baghdad--and meeting with Saddam--in context. He writes: "Iraq's Ba'athist regime was at the time the bitter adversary of two nations that threatened the interests of the United States--Syria and Iran." He argues: "Syria, under President Hafez Al-Assad, was a leading supporter of international terrorism and occupied portions of Lebanon, a country that when left to its own devices favored the West." Iran, according to Rumsfeld, "had been a close friend of the United States until the 1979 coup by militant Islamists led by a radical cleric, Ayatollah Khomeini."

From the perspective of Reagan's America in 1983, as spelled out by Rumsfeld, "Iraq sat between these two menaces--Syria and Iran.
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