Rumsfeld Book Review “His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy”

I started reading a book on Donald Rumsfeld that was recommended by my dad.  It’s by Andrew Cockburn (stop laughing) and it’s really interesting so far.  It is called “His Rise, Fall, and Castastrophic Legacy“.  Yes, I already said that in the title but I wanted something to link to so I wrote it again…so back off. 

I thought I would give my impressions of the book as I read it.  I’m about 100 pages into it so far but I just thought of the idea.  I’ll just pick a topic in the book and give everyone a taste of Rummy as Cockburn sees it. 

In the chapter “How $weet it is” Cockburn talks about Rumsfeld’s stint with G.D. Searle and how he helped get Aspartame approved by the FDA. Rumsfeld became CEO of Searle in May of 1977 at a time where Searle was struggling mainly because their only new product was Aspartame and the FDA had shelved it.  Rumsfeld’s new management team  believed that Searle should be in the business of “getting FDA approval.”

Searle was also facing a criminal indictment at this time for lying about clinical trials.  Cockburn talks about this and how it was squashed due to some connections of Rummy’s…yeah it’s all alleged but any reasonable person knows how that works.  The FDA proved that they had lied but still they were not punished for lying about the drug trials. 


Searle had spent 40 million dollars on Aspartame before Dr. John W. Olney, a professor at Washington University school of medicine, released findings that rats who were given samples of aspartame suffered “acute death of nerve cells in the immature hypothalamus”, a region of the brane that produces and secretes hormones in the the bloodstream.

Olney aslo discovered a study from the early 70’s which showed that “aspartame had been causing brain tumors in rats, and the FDA had just sloughed it off.”  This study and others helped get Aspartame shelved in September of 1980, pending resolution of concerns about cancer.

Reagan was elected shortly thereafter and the projected profits from Aspartame were described as “incredible”.  Very techinical term, i know.  So on Jan 21, 1981 one day after Reagan had taken office, Searle petitioned to have the Aspartame verdict overruled.  Reagan had a new man in charge of the FDA and he had run on a platform of freeing business from regulations…so on July 18, 1981 Aspartame was approved for solid foods. 

What we know as NutraSweet and Equal.  Searle was sold shortly thereafter to Monsanto for 2.7 billion dollars after almost being bankrupt just a few years earlier. 

Professor Olney still holds the same view of Aspartame and believing that basically it causes cancer.  He says that “the rate of glioblastoma, the most malignant kind, had markedly increasedd i the ten years immediately following the introduction of aspartame, while the rate of incidence  of less malignant types had decreased.” In other words, the types of brain tumor appearing in the population had suddenly shifted to a more aggressive and usually lethal variety. 

I probably failed to do the chapter justice but it’s an interesting read and if you believe it then an infuriating read.  Rumsfeld completely turned this company around and made billions of dollars because of one product, Aspartame which had been shelved by the FDA over  health concerns.  Those vanished…just think about that next time you grab a diet soda.  The behind the scenes accounts in the book are great but impossible to explain here because of space and time. 

Space and Time.  Cockburn.  Rumsfeld.  The War.  Stay Tuned for more. 


4 responses to “Rumsfeld Book Review “His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy”

  1. Pingback: Rumsfeld and Aspartame « Brett’s Blog

  2. Crazy – it’s sad to think stuff like this can actually happen, and that the agency set to protect us is actually the shadiest of them all.

    Nice site redesign, by the way.

  3. It is pretty scary and the book also talks about how the state of Arizona was ready to ban aspartame because it becomes toxic if heated…and obviously arizona gets really hot in the summer so all those diet soda’s could become toxic.

    Searle, the FDA and Rummy put a stop to it. It’s always interesting or disgusting to see what people will do for money.

  4. Good book! That`s how you turn a war criminal into a bedtime story – enjoy!

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