(updated below)

In the neocon journal Commentary, Max Boot today complains that the New York Times published an op-ed by Edward Snowden. Boot’s objection rests on his accusation that the NSA whistleblower is actually a “traitor.” In objecting, Boot made these claims:

Oddly enough nowhere in his article — which is datelined Moscow — does he mention the surveillance apparatus of his host, Vladimir Putin, which far exceeds in scope anything created by any Western country. . . .That would be the same FSB that has taken Snowden into its bosom as it has previously done (in its earlier incarnation as the KGB) with previous turncoats such as Kim Philby. . . .

But of course Ed Snowden is not courageous enough, or stupid enough, to criticize the dictatorship that he has defected to. It’s much easier and safer to criticize the country he betrayed from behind the protection provided by the FSB’s thugs. The only mystery is why the Times is giving this traitor a platform.

It is literally the supreme act of projection for Max Boot to accuse anyone of lacking courage, as this particular think tank warmonger is the living, breathing personification of the unique strain of American neocon cowardice. Unlike Snowden — who sacrificed his liberty and unraveled his life in pursuit of his beliefs — the 45-year-old Boot has spent most of his adult life advocating for one war after the next, but always wanting to send his fellow citizens of his generation to die in them, while he hides in the comfort of Washington think tanks, never fighting them himself.

All of that is just garden-variety neocon cowardice, and it’s of course grotesque to watch someone like this call someone else a coward. But it’s so much worse if he lies when doing so. Did he do so here? You decide. From Snowden’s NYT op-ed today:

Basic technical safeguards such as encryption — once considered esoteric and unnecessary — are now enabled by default in the products of pioneering companies like Apple, ensuring that even if your phone is stolen, your private life remains private. Such structural technological changes can ensure access to basic privacies beyond borders, insulating ordinary citizens from the arbitrary passage of anti­ privacy laws, such as those now descending upon Russia.

The meaning of that passage — criticisms of Russia’s attack on privacy — is so clear and glaring that it caused even Time magazine to publish this today:

The first sentence of Time’s article: “Former CIA officer and NSA contractor Ed Snowden has taken a surprising swing at his new home, accusing Russia of ‘arbitrarily passing’ new anti-privacy laws.”  In other words, in the very op-ed to which Boot objects, Snowden did exactly that which Boot accused him of lacking the courage to do: “criticize” the country that has given him asylum.

This is far from the first time Snowden has done exactly that which the Tough and Swaggering Think Tank Warrior proclaimed Snowden would never do. In April, 2014, Snowden wrote an op-ed in The Guardian under this headline:

With Max Boot’s above-printed accusations in mind, just re-read that. Did Boot lie? To pose the question is to answer it. Here’s part of what Snowden wrote in that op-ed:

On Thursday, I questioned Russia’s involvement in mass surveillance on live television. . . . I went on to challenge whether, even if such a mass surveillance program were effective and technically legal, it could ever be morally justified. . . . In his response, Putin denied the first part of the question and dodged on the latter. There are serious inconsistencies in his denial.

In countless speeches, Snowden has said much the same thing: that Russian spying is a serious problem that needs investigation and reform, and that Putin’s denials are not credible. Boot simply lied about Snowden.

It’s not surprising that someone whose entire adult life is shaped by extreme cowardice would want to accuse others of lacking courage, as it distracts attention away from oneself and provides the comfort of company. Nor is it surprising that government-loyal journalists spew outright falsehoods to smear whistleblowers. But even neocon rags like Commentary shouldn’t be able to get away with this level of blatant lying.

UPDATE: In typical neocon fashion, Boot first replies by minimizing his own error to a mere innocent oversight, and implying that only hysteria could cause anyone to find what he did to be problematic. Even then, the facts negate his self-justification. But then he says he was actually right all along and his “point stands”:

Being a neocon coward means never having to admit error.

Photo: Michael Buckner/Getty Images for SXSW