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Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld signs eight copies of his book, "Known and Unknown," for Denise Stonum and Cmdr. Tom Stonum at Yokosuka Naval Base on Saturday. The Stonums say they plan to give copies of the book to friends and family. Rumsfeld, one of the most polarizing of America's political leaders in recent years, met nothing but adoring fans at Yokosuka.

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld signs eight copies of his book, "Known and Unknown," for Denise Stonum and Cmdr. Tom Stonum at Yokosuka Naval Base on Saturday. The Stonums say they plan to give copies of the book to friends and family. Rumsfeld, one of the most polarizing of America's political leaders in recent years, met nothing but adoring fans at Yokosuka. (Erik Slavin/Stars and Stripes)

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld signs eight copies of his book, "Known and Unknown," for Denise Stonum and Cmdr. Tom Stonum at Yokosuka Naval Base on Saturday. The Stonums say they plan to give copies of the book to friends and family. Rumsfeld, one of the most polarizing of America's political leaders in recent years, met nothing but adoring fans at Yokosuka.

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld signs eight copies of his book, "Known and Unknown," for Denise Stonum and Cmdr. Tom Stonum at Yokosuka Naval Base on Saturday. The Stonums say they plan to give copies of the book to friends and family. Rumsfeld, one of the most polarizing of America's political leaders in recent years, met nothing but adoring fans at Yokosuka. (Erik Slavin/Stars and Stripes)

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld signs a copy of his book, "Known and Unknown," at Yokosuka Naval Base in 2011. Rumsfeld, one of the most polarizing of America's political leaders in recent years, met nothing but adoring fans at Yokosuka.

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld signs a copy of his book, "Known and Unknown," at Yokosuka Naval Base in 2011. Rumsfeld, one of the most polarizing of America's political leaders in recent years, met nothing but adoring fans at Yokosuka. (Erik Slavin/Stars and Stripes)

Donald Rumsfeld signs copies of his book, "Known and Unknown: A Memoir," at Yokosuka Naval Exchange on Saturday.

Donald Rumsfeld signs copies of his book, "Known and Unknown: A Memoir," at Yokosuka Naval Exchange on Saturday. (Trevor Andersen/Stars and Stripes)

Donald Rumsfeld signs copies of his book, "Known and Unknown: A Memoir," at Yokosuka Naval Exchange on Saturday.

Donald Rumsfeld signs copies of his book, "Known and Unknown: A Memoir," at Yokosuka Naval Exchange on Saturday. (Trevor Andersen/Stars and Stripes)

Donald Rumsfeld shakes hands, signs books and takes photos with customers at his book signing at the Yokosuka Naval Exchange on Saturday.

Donald Rumsfeld shakes hands, signs books and takes photos with customers at his book signing at the Yokosuka Naval Exchange on Saturday. (Trevor Andersen/Stars and Stripes)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The line to meet Donald Rumsfeld began forming at 9:30 a.m., two hours before the former secretary of defense’s appearance at the base Navy exchange store here on Saturday.

It snaked along the book aisles, through the toy section and into the clothing store as it steadily grew full of Iraq War Marine veterans, old Navy salts, shipyard workers and military spouses.

Most in line carried at least one or two copies of Rumsfeld’s “Known and Unknown,” an 815-page autobiographical account of five decades spent in and out of Washington.

From talking to just about any of his waiting fans, you would never know that the man they came to meet is one of the most polarizing political figures in recent times. Saturday’s scene was nothing short of a Rummy love-in.

“I think he’s a person who has done phenomenal things for us and our country,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jason Stravers, an Iraq veteran from Urbandale, Iowa. “I personally don’t think [critics] have a clear understanding of the decisions he had to make behind the scenes.”

Rumsfeld presided over a victorious invasion of Iraq, but also over the beginnings of the insurgency there. He believed that a smaller footprint was the wiser course and never pushed for the troop surge that came a year after he was asked to resign.

Some book reviewers have accused Rumsfeld of shifting blame for the mismanagement of post-invasion Iraq to others in the administration.

He jabs at Coalition Provisional Authority administrator L. Paul Bremer for an imperious approach that “fanned the embers of what would become the Iraqi insurgency;” CIA director George Tenet for flawed intelligence; and Condoleezza Rice for a perceived inability to run the National Security Council effectively.

Rumsfeld takes strong exception in the book to what he saw as insinuations that then-Secretary of State Colin Powell was somehow duped by the administration about the existence of weapons of mass destruction.

“The far less dramatic truth is that we were wrong,” Rumsfeld wrote.

He lists his chief regret as not resigning during the Abu Ghraib prison scandal — not because he believed his policies led to the abuses — but because his continued presence hindered the George W. Bush administration’s efforts.

Public opinion over the war in Iraq remains divided to this day. In a recent University of Maryland poll, respondents were almost evenly split over whether the Iraq war was worth fighting.

Rumsfeld expresses no such doubts.

“It will be [worth it], and I think if you talk to the people out there, the military people, they feel that way,” Rumsfeld said during a brief interview with Stars and Stripes.

Rumsfeld added that he wasn’t concerned about how he would be viewed by later generations. Despite such nonchalance, he has given historians a lot to comb over. In addition to the lengthy book, Rumsfeld's website includes thousands of declassified documents, ranging from his time as a 29-year-old Congressman to his service in the Nixon, Ford and Bush administrations.

The website has had 29 million hits since February, Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld will also appear for a book signing at the Yongsan Garrison Post Exchange in Seoul, South Korea, on Thursday.

slavine@pstripes.osd.mil

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