COUNTDOWN opening tonight with the fallout from the September 11 report. Up next, the No. 4 story: Special delivery to Iraq. More money, more ammo, and more music? That‘s not a joke.
OLBERMANN: Next here on COUNTDOWN, supporting America‘s bravest, by bringing back into service all if its retired band members.
OLBERMANN: The U.S. Army has called for back-up from the Navy, the Air Force, and the Marines, not personnel, cash. Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight: The military has burned through most of the $65 billion Congress appropriated for Afghanistan and Iraq, the Army spending the most of it, and they‘re evidently also way low on musicians. The Army is in red by more than 10 billion, Air Force one billion, and Navy nearly that, the Marines looking like good managers at only half a billion, but Congress racing to find another 25 billion to get the military through the start of the recess. But, much of it will be immediately spent, and this all may recur before year‘s end. The budget problem has led to cuts in everything from night vision equipment to armor plating of vehicles, to say nothing of the manpower shortage. The Army has called Dr. John Wicks out of retirement, he is a psychiatrist. He‘s headed to Iraq, he is 68 years old. Fifty-six hundred other ex, or thought they were ex-military personnel will soon be notified they‘re being recalled as part of the individual ready reserve, including a lot of people with specific skills, like Dr. Wicks or the 627 supply specialists, the 361 mechanics, the one euphonium player. According to the IRR list, Uncle Sam also needs two trumpeters, a pair of French hornists, three saxophonists, four clarinet players, a percussionist, an electric bass player, and a guy with a trombone. We are blowing neither smoke nor trumpets at you, your country needs a new band. This is serious stuff and Tom Squitieri of “USA Today” broke the story this week, and joins us now having left his trombone at home.
Tom, good evening.
TOM SQUITIERI, “USA TODAY”: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: It sounds like there‘s a lounge act playing in some motel bar tonight that may find itself in Iraq by the fall. What the hell is this all about?
SQUITIERI: Well, the truth is, that they need a lot of bands people to play for funerals, as well as morale-boosting activities. And when these guys are not performing, they‘re doing guard duty.
I‘ve heard, Keith, today at the Pentagon they were not very pleased to have this out, because they didn‘t want this, the depth and the width of the call-up being known. But, I‘ve been told that by this weekend, they will have found volunteers for these 15 musical slots, and no one will be forced to pick up their trumpet and go to Iraq.
OLBERMANN: Just going to ask you to reaction to the—you know, the concept of forcibly reuping Clarence Clemmons. Is the—you know, the ludicrousness of this, does it extend to any other areas? Are there—you know, I don‘t know a lot of graphic artists that are forcibly being recalled?
SQUITIERI: No graphic arts, there‘s some morticians, there‘s some bug experts, a lot of truck drivers as you noted in sort of support positions. But what it underscores Keith, is that—is that the degree of difficulty the military is facing in these ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to experts.
The military is stretched and you‘ve talked about this before, and a lot of these skilled positions—you know, you think of the military only as shooting, but there are all the other positions that are required to make the military work. And they don‘t have them any more. And the problem is, they have to plan for next year and the year after, now. And to take the troops from other reserve units means busting up those units and then they can‘t use them next year.
OLBERMANN: Is there anybody still saying in the Pentagon, no, we did not under budget in terms of personnel for Iraq? Or, are they suggesting that somehow their predictions were correct but then events changed?
SQUITIERI: It‘s more of the latter, that their predictions were correct. And we‘ve always said we would have to have more troops or less troops depending on the circumstance. But in reality is, that canard isn‘t flying too much any more when you talk to people, especially on the record or in the hall—off the record or in the hallways. Even secretary Rumsfeld acknowledges that he‘ll put as many troops in there as is required. And the problem is, Keith, again, there—they‘ve tapped Peter to pay Paul, much as you said in the introduction, taking money away from night vision to pay for the ongoing war today, means in the future they won‘t have them. One key thing, they‘re sending the elements that now train the soldiers in Forts Irwin and Fort Polk, they‘re sending these sophisticated people to fight in the war, which means troops that will be trained will not be trained as well as the ones in the past.
OLBERMANN: An adage of Benjamin Franklin suddenly comes to mind. Tom Squitieri of “USA Today” who in fact play the trombone.
SQUITIERI: I do.
OLBERMANN: Thanks for your time tonight, glad you‘re not going and take five.
SQUITIERI: Thank you, sir.
OLBERMANN: COUNTDOWN now passed our No. 4 story. Up next, from the hard news of war and terror to the hard to understand headlines that we love so well, “Oddball.” Monkey gets sick, monkey gets better, monkey walks like human.
And nothing leaves us scratching our heads more than Michael Jackson. Will the latest M.J. news make it into our weekly news quiz, “What have we learned?” Learn later.