Opinion: Antiwar Barack Obama says he once considered military career


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Appearing on ABC-TV’s ‘This Week.’ Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, who built much of his early campaign momentum on an early speech against the Iraq war, let it be known that he once considered a military career.

But because there was no war going on at the time, the candidate said he decided against the military and chose instead to continue his higher education, including Harvard Law School.


On Sunday’s program, host George Stephanopoulos asked the freshman senator in a taped interview if he’d ever thought about military service.

“You know,’ said Obama as if his reply might surprise people. ‘I actually did. I had to sign up for Selective Service when I graduated from high school. And I was growing up in Hawaii. And I have friends whose parents were in the military. There are a lot of Army, military bases there.

‘And I actually always thought of the military as an ennobling and, you know, honorable option. But keep in mind that I graduated in 1979. The Vietnam War had come to an end. We weren’t engaged in an active military conflict at that point. And so, it’s not an option that I ever decided to pursue.”

During last winter’s heated primary/caucus season, the Democratic left eagerly embraced Obama for his staunch antiwar stance, which Obama sought to underline by noting Sen. Hillary Clinton’s vote to authorize the use of military force in Iraq. At the time of the Senate vote, Obama was often present in the Illinois state Senate, where the war was not at issue.

Although the Illinois senator, like all candidates, consistently pays tribute to ‘our men and women in uniform’ for their service to the country, this is believed to be the first time that Obama has claimed actually considering military service for himself.

Obama, who is 47, did not mention his military aspirations in either of his published autobiographies, nor during the primary campaign.


This was also the first time he appeared to indicate that he had a personal desire to engage in military combat.

Of course, it’s possible that the convention observation by the new Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, that her ticket mate Sen. John McCain is the only one of the four candidates who has actually fought for his country might have stung the Democrat. And it is naturally impossible to verify what anyone once considered.

McCain, whose father and grandfather also served in the Navy, was in that service for more than two decades, 66 months of them spent as a prisoner of war in Hanoi after being shot down over Vietnam and tortured.

He atypically described these events in some detail during his own widely watched convention speech Thursday. (See Ticket item and complete speech text here.)

McCain’s two sons are also in the military, as is one of Palin’s. Palin’s son leaves for Iraq later this week. Joseph Beau Biden, oldest son of Sen. Joe Biden, the Democratic vice presidential candidate, is to deploy to Iraq in October as a member of the Delaware Army National Guard.

--Andrew Malcolm