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Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy Hardcover – February 27, 2007

4.2 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"[A] perceptive and engrossing biography... Cockburn argues that Rumsfeld's disastrous tenure cannot be fully understood without examining his earlier career. He demonstrates that Rumsfeld was an inveterate schemer, skilled at evading responsibility for his decisions. Though Cockburn sometimes places the most sinister construction possible on Rumsfeld's actions, his overall account is quite persuasive." -- Jacob Heilbrunn, "The New York Times Book Review"

"Andrew Cockburn's great new biography is a short book that packs a big punch. Who knew that Rumsfeld really, really wanted to be president, or that Rumsfeld was AWOL for awhile on 9/11, or that Rumsfeld brushed off warnings of an attack prior to that day, or that he lined up retired generals to sing his praises after the invasion of Iraq? There's lots of new material in Cockburn's book, and it's well-organized."

-- Jeff Baker, "The Oregonian" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Andrew Cockburn is a writer and lecturer on defense and national affairs, and is also the author of five nonfiction books. He has written for The New York Times, The New Yorker, Playboy, Vanity Fair, and National Geographic, among other publications. He currently lives in Washington, D.C.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 1 edition (February 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416535748
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416535744
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,836,941 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
[...]. Despite the fact that the author and publisher must have moved heaven and earth to get it published so quickly, there is no sign of any undue haste: it is thoroughly researched, and clearly- (and in many places, very wittily-) written, and makes its case convincingly.

Like a lot of people, I was familiar with Rumfeld's most recent "achievements", but not aware of his work in the Nixon White House. (Incidentally, Nixon referred to him as a 'ruthless little [...]' and there is a very telling dialogue between Nixon and Rumsfeld on the subject of Africans and African-Americans, where Rummy sycophantically echoes all of Nixon's worst prejudices.) Nor did I know of the role that Donald played as CEO of the GD Searle company in pushing the highly-controversial aspartame product onto the market.

The whole sorry story of the invasion of Iraq and the roles of Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Feith, and Perle are described with greater insight than I have read to this date, thanks to the author's skill in getting so many officials close to the decision-making processes to speak to him. Rumfeld's responsibliity for the disgrace of Abu Ghraib is outlined in its full sickening detail.

The myth of Rumsfeld's managerial abilities is effectively laid to rest, with examples of mismanagement, indecisiveness, and bullying from throughout his career. Interestingly it seems that George Bush Snr. seems to have been one of the few to have recognized this (when Rumsfeld wrote asking to be ambassador of Japan, Bush wrote on his request NO. THIS WILL NEVER HAPPEN!!).

Now that Rumsfeld has amassed an enormous fortune, I suppose he can turn his back on his disastrous career and enjoy Midge Decter's fawning biography of him. For the rest of us who must suffer as a result of his mistakes, this masterly work serves as a model of how we need people like Cockburn to remind us that so often our emperors are naked frauds.
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Format: Hardcover
Andrew Cockburn's unauthorized biography of Donald Rumsfeld is a "must read" for anyone interested in understanding the systemic and dysfunctional behavour of the US government and that of the current Bush Administration in particular. While much has been written of Rumsfeld's failure as a wartime Secretary of Defense, and Cockburn adds much valuable information to this growing body of literature, less has been written about Rumsfeld's disastrous record in managing the Pentagon' programmatic and budgetary activities. Cockburn's book is pathbreaking in that it also addresses this equally important subject, and this review will focus on this latter aspect of Rumsfeld's record.

First some "truth in advertising:" I have known Cockburn for almost thirty years and consider him a close friend. I am an admirer of his earlier books, and I was a minor source of information in the Rumsfeld book (see pages 207-208).

I retired from the Department of Defense in 2003 after thirty three years, including twenty-six years in the Office of Secretary of Defense in Pentagon, where, as a staff analyst, I wrote numerous publicly available reports describing how the dysfunctional managerial problems plaguing the Pentagon, from the Carter presidency to that of George W. Bush, created a historical pattern of shrinking forces, aging weapons, and continual pressure to reduce combat readiness, all lubricated by corrupt accounting system that subverted the Accountability Clause of the Constitution. Most of these reports can be found on the internet ([...]) and in my book "Defense Facts of Life: The Plans/Reality Mismatch." The fact that our troops went to Iraq ill-equipped and untrained to a war of choice created by the Bush Administration is natural consequence of this dysfunctional history.
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Format: Hardcover
I've now read this book three times, twice fairly quickly and once in depth, and the more I read it the better it gets!

What really amazes me is the number of sources the author is able to draw up, particularly from within the military. The political views of Andrew Cockburn and his brothers Alexander and Patrick are well documented, but this does not seem to have restrained their sources in any way. Cockburn certainly has a sharp ear for the telling piece of insider information.

Where I think this book really shines is in its tight editing. There is often a tendency for biographers to include every piece of information they have been able to find, even if it does not necessarily add to the argument. This writer does not tell us those things we already know, and nor does he include text just to show us how much research he has done. His self-restraint makes for a very compelling - and often wryly ironic - narrative. Who would have expected a biography of such a man to be such a page-turner?

The current debacle in Iraq is not the result of an accident, nor of unforseen events. It is the direct result of policies instigated by Rumsfeld and his coterie. I would describe this book as essential reading for everyone interested in learning about how such mistakes can possibly be avoided in the future.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While we don't know the end of the Iraq war, we do know one of the first public casualties of the war is no other than Rumsfeld. Cockburn completes this bio just in time to cover his resignation.

He traces the book from Rumsfeld's start as an Illnois congressman,through the Nixon and Ford adminstrations, and then life as a big business CEO until he is called to be secretary of defense for the Bush Adminstration.

There isn't much you will learn from Cockburn's book during his time in the Bush adminstration. No light is shed on his resignation. (I'm still curious who was behind the resignation since Dick Cheney thinks he's the greatest secretary of defense in history). Another problem with the book is there is a chapter on Rumsfeld's role as CEO of GD Searle involving the product Nutra-Sweet which is meant to reflect on Rumsfeld's character but the truth of the matter that chapter says more about the Nutra-Sweet industry than it does about Rumsfeld. Finally, it would help if would Cockburn would name his sources. There is too much reliance on unnamed sources here in this book.

The more informative chapters come from his time in the Nixon and Ford adminstration. It is interesting and a bit eerie to see the parallels between Rumsfeld's role as a secretary of defense in the Ford and Bush 43 adminstration: In both adminstrations, he is extremely hawkish on world matters, disdain for other experienced military opinion and places more faith in weapon technology than our armed forces. However, for all his faith in weapon technology, he doesn't pick ones that are cost-efficient (turbane tank) or even remotely work (missle defense.
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