In a scathing op-ed published Wednesday only hours after Donald Rumsfeld's passing, Daily Beast contributing editor Spencer Ackerman mounted a full-on assault on the late defense secretary's legacy, instructing readers not to mourn him — but "his victims."
Rumsfeld, a towering and respected figure in American politics who twice served as defense secretary, died Wednesday afternoon surrounded by family at the age of 88. But according to Ackerman, his passing doesn't amount to a tragedy.
"The only thing tragic about the death of Donald Rumsfeld is that it didn't occur in an Iraqi prison," seethed Ackerman. "Yet that was foreordained, considering how throughout his life inside the precincts of American national security, Rumsfeld escaped the consequences of decisions he made that ensured a violent, frightening end for hundreds of thousands of people."
While it's true that Rumsfeld's storied career and reputation as a skilled bureaucrat will almost certainly be tarnished to some degree by the long and costly Iraq War, precipitated under his leadership, Ackerman's eagerness to throw dirt on Rumsfeld's name no more than a day after his passing smacks of indecency.
In the op-ed, Ackerman lamented that Rumsfeld "never faced any accountability for what he did, only political eclipse." So it appears he thought it his journalistic responsibility to bring that accountability now in the form of a postmortem hit piece.
In that way, Ackerman would put Rumsfeld in an "elite category of responsibility" for the approximately 400,000 deaths that resulted from his "wars of choice" in Afghanistan and Iraq, putting the blame squarely "on his head."
By classifying the U.S. war in Iraq as an "unprovoked war of aggression" pushed only by Rumsfeld and a couple of others, Ackerman was able to put the blood primarily on his hands, alongside former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
Despite apparently never meeting Rumsfeld, Ackerman characterized the political figure as "cruel," "indignant," and a "con man" who had a "cold indifference to the suffering of others." He told lies "as easily as he breathed," the writer suggested.
In a strange parting shot, Ackerman even mocked the hobbled gait that accompanied Rumsfeld in his old age.
"For the potency and vigor Rumsfeld wanted to project, he moved delicately. An elderly man, he walked starting with his hips, swaying one foot outward before sweeping the other one forward, slow half-moons of motion as he carefully descended the hill north of Dupont Circle," Ackerman wrote.
"How frail was this man who can lay claim to the deaths of at least 415,000 people, and how bitter it is that unlike them, his name will be remembered, even in infamy," he concluded.