The Cable

Don Rumsfeld Has Built an App to Play Cards Like Churchill

The former Defense Secretary's app offers players a form of solitaire with two decks reportedly favored by the British leader.


There are the “known knowns,” the “known unknowns,” and then there are the “unknown unknowns.” Offered in response to a 2002 question about Iraq supplying terrorists with weapons of mass destruction, it’s perhaps the best-known quip of America’s enigmatic, elusive, and some would argue disastrous former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Or was he, in fact, talking about card games?

In the sunset of his years, Donald Rumsfeld, now 83, on Friday released an app that claims to resuscitate a form of solitaire once enjoyed by that giant of British history, Winston Churchill.

That app, called Churchill Solitaire, hit the Apple Store Friday and is a twist on the traditional game. Played with two decks, players must liberate six cards, known as the “Devil’s Six.” Its makers describe the game as a difficult one in which one wrong move can spell the difference between victory and defeat. Would that be one of those “known unknowns”?

According to a statement from the app’s developers, Rumsfeld picked up the game while serving as President Richard Nixon’s NATO ambassador in Belgium. While there, he became close to his Belgian counterpart, Andre de Staercke, who had learned the game from Churchill himself. During World War II, de Starcke had served in the Belgian government in exile, growing close to the British leader and picking up a favorite card game.

“When I learned the game from my colleague at NATO, Andre de Staercke, I found it to be one of the most entertaining and strategic card games I’d ever played,” Rumsfeld said in the statement.

Rumsfeld reportedly helped guide the app’s development, offering directives to the programmers working on the project. “I suppose there are not many people at my advanced age involved in mobile apps,” Rumsfeld said.

The game is currently only available for iOS, but an Android release is slated for later this winter.

DAVE KAUP/AFP/Getty Images

Elias Groll is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @EliasGroll

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