Last Friday, The Atlantic's Josh Green reported a controversial discovery about Republican Congressional nominee Rich Iott: a military history and reenactment buff, Iott "for years donned a German Waffen SS uniform and participated in Nazi re-enactments":
Iott, whose district lies in Northwest Ohio, was involved with a group that calls itself Wiking, whose members are devoted to re-enacting the exploits of an actual Nazi division, the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking, which fought mainly on the Eastern Front during World War II. ... When contacted by The Atlantic, Iott confirmed his involvement with the group over a number of years, but said his interest in Nazi Germany was historical and he does not subscribe to the tenets of Nazism.
The Wiking site, however, "makes scant mention of the atrocities committed by the Waffen SS," and, though it includes a disclaimer regarding Nazi ideology, it also calls the Nazis "idealists" and "emphasizes how the Wiking unit fought Bolshevist Communism." Even as some of the right-leaning blogosphere defends Iott, saying it's unfair to accuse him of being a Nazi sympathizer since he has also done plenty of other reenactments, critics insist that this is letting him off the hook too easily. Meanwhile, Republican politicians are distancing themselves from Iott, and have removed his name from their "Young Guns" website, further angering conservatives who feel there is "nothing extremist about military reenactment."
In Defense of Iott
- 'Guilty of Being Little More Than a Giant History Nerd,' judges Newsweek's Daniel Stone, one of the few mainstream journalists to take this position.
To prove that he's an equal-opportunity war re-enactor, Iott also posted photos on his campaign website of him reenacting other wars, including World War I and the U.S. Civil War, for which he wore a Union Uniform. It’s also worth noting that swastikas are prohibited by the re-enactment group of which Iott is a member.
- I Meant No Offense "Never, in any of my re-enacting of military history, have I meant any disrespect to anyone who served in our military or anyone who has been affected by the tragedy of war, especially the Jewish Community," reads a statement on Iott's website. "... In fact, my respect for the militaryand our veterans and my concern for the victims of war is one of the reasons I have actively studied military history throughout my life."
- 'Biased Reporting' Ann Althouse asks, "How evil is it for a candidate to play the role of a Nazi in war reenactments?" Althouse follows up in a later post, asking rhetorically: "How evil is it for a journalist to write about that and bury--in the 13th paragraph--the news that the same man ... has also done reenactment as a Civil War Union infantryman, a World War I doughboy and a World War II American infantryman and paratrooper?" She thinks "Green should be ashamed of himself for minimizing this. ... A decent journalist would have ascertained how many war reenactments Iott has done and which roles Iott played in them."
- Republicans Ditching Him Should Be Ashamed Conservative blogger Dan Riehl decides Republican Eric Cantor, who repudiated Iott on Fox News, is either a "lightweight" or a "sell-out." Protests Riehl:
"There is nothing extremist about military reenactment as a hobby. And
it takes both sides of the battle to conduct such an activity, which is
popular in all fifty states. ... The Left," at least, he adds, "doesn't
bail on its candidates when they are unfairly attacked."