In reaction to a discussion I had on the Sago Boulevard blog, I would like to offer this explanation of the difference between a pretext and a reason. Using Webster's definitions, a pretext is "a purpose or motive alleged or an appearance assumed in order to cloak the real intention or state of affairs" A reason is "a statement offered in explanation or justification, a rational ground or motive". So a reason for going to war would be defending your country from an imminent threat, or to destroy stockpile of weapons of mass destruction that could be used in terrorist attacks against you. A pretext would be if you told the public that a country posed an imminent threat and possessed stockpile of weapons of mass destruction even though you had no reason to suspect those things. The case for a pretext would be strengthened if you told the international community that you had conclusive proof, and then failed to deliver that proof or any weapons of mass destruction for over two years after you occupied that nation. The case for a pretext would be even further strengthened if you had publicly announced that Iraq was trying to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger, even though your envoy (Joseph Wilson) had discovered that to be untrue and told you as much in no unclear words. If the Senate Intelligence Committee finds in its next report that pressure was put on intelligence analysts to provide information supporting the views of politicians toward Iraq, then a pretext will have been undeniably established.
This is hurtful to our country in two ways. Directly misleading the public makes a mockery of the idea of a republic. It completely undermines the type of oversight and accountability that separates America from a dictatorship. It is also damaging in our relations with other nations. When we call out for support and trust in an effort such as the war on terror, and then appear untrustworthy and unrepentant, we can't really expect full cooperation in the future. It only strengthens the position of countries that opposed this war in the beginning.