A journalist asked former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld one question shortly after they took the stage Friday afternoon at the Truman Library. 

A journalist asked former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld one question shortly after they took the stage Friday afternoon at the Truman Library.  

Rumsfeld, who last appeared at the library in the spring of 2006, said he was glad to be back in Independence.

And then nearly 10 minutes of vocalized disruption broke out.

“Mic check! Donald Rumsfeld, turn yourself in! War criminal!” the group of protesters shouted in unison, using the interruption made popular by the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Throughout the packed Library Auditorium, a handful of those in support of Rumsfeld also took to their feet, asking the protesters to leave and to let Rumsfeld speak without interruption. Library security officials removed the protesters, and two people were arrested for trespassing after refusing to move to the designated protest area outside of the building.

“The library’s protocol is to tell them to be quiet once, and the second time, they need to leave,” Independence Police Department Capt. John Cato said. “They were given the option of leaving the property or being cited, and they wouldn’t leave.”

The two protesters left the auditorium, but then refused to go outside to the designated protest area or leave the property, so library officials cited them for trespassing, a municipal offense, Cato said.

Rumsfeld’s public appearances are known to draw similar protests and reactions across the United States. Even in the five years since he exited President George W. Bush’s administration, Rumsfeld has received criticism for the United States’ role in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. The Iraq War ended in December 2011, while the War in Afghanistan continues.

Rumsfeld said Bush never asked him about going to war in Iraq.  

“You’re the defense secretary of the country. Why wouldn’t he ask you?” said the event’s moderator, The Kansas City Star’s political reporter and host of KCUR’s “Up to Date,” Steve Kraske.

“Well, I don’t know that he asked anybody,” Rumsfeld said, a remark that generated laughter from the audience. Bush had hoped that Saddam Hussein would cooperate with the United States, Rumsfeld said, and the president’s decision to go to war was not based solely on finding weapons of mass destruction.

“At some point, should he have asked you?” Kraske said.

“He’s the president, and he was elected by the American people. He’s the one who decides if something needs to be done,” Rumsfeld said.

Prior to going to war, Bush met regularly with key officials, including Rumsfeld, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and then-Director of Central Intelligence for the CIA George Tenet, as well as senior military commanders.

“Any one of us had the opportunity to tell him he was doing something wrong. ... He proceeded in a very rational, logical way. The policy of the United States government was regime change in Iraq.

“...Even at the last minute, we talked and tried to get Saddam Hussein to leave the country with his family and not have to go to war.”

Rumsfeld spoke earlier on Friday before more than 1,000 U.S. and international officers at Fort Leavenworth. His audience in Independence included former Missouri Congressman Ike Skelton, a Democrat who served as chairman of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee.

At 79, Rumsfeld holds the distinction of being the youngest and the oldest secretary of defense, having served under President Gerald Ford from 1975 to 1977 and under President George W. Bush from Jan. 20, 2001, until his resignation in late 2006. He also holds the second longest tenure of serving as secretary of defense since the cabinet position’s creation in the 1940s, serving just 10 days less than Robert McNamara.

“Among your tenure, I suppose your degree of difficulty was up there, as well,” Truman Library Director Michael Devine told Rumsfeld.

During the 90-minute event that was free and open to the public, Rumsfeld also addressed the concerns of weapons of mass destruction during Saddam Hussein’s regime, the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib by U.S. military personnel and rebuilding America’s image following the Iraq War. His memoir, “Known and Unknown,” was released in early 2011.

Kraske asked Rumsfeld how the protests make him feel.

“I don’t make a lot of it,” Rumsfeld said. “We’ve always had people protesting in our country.”

One attendee’s medical emergency also briefly interrupted Rumsfeld’s appearance, although officials said the patron was in OK health at the event’s conclusion.

Despite the protests, Cato said security and policing at the event went well.

“Overall, it was a good day,” he said. “There’s always somebody who wants to voice their opinion, and that’s their constitutional right, and as long as they abide by the rules on private property, all goes well.”

During a brief question-and-answer time with audience members, Anna Warm, a senior in institutions and policy at William Jewell College, asked Rumsfeld how the United States could repair its image in the aftermath of the Iraq War.

“Your question was a good one, but it left the impression that we were once thought of as good – there are always going to criticisms,” Rumsfeld said.

America’s role, throughout history and today, continues as an example for other countries, he said.

“This country is the perfect example of freedom and opportunity,” Rumsfeld said. “Perfect? No.”