Diana West

Talk is cheap, Gen. Petraeus. You may not agree. After all, your Washington, D.C., super lawyer, Bob Barnett, charges you something like $900 an hour for a kind of talk best described as reputation reconfiguration or image management, and that's not cheap. Still, you probably consider it effective.

Judging by your recent coming-out party at a University of Southern California dinner to honor the military -- your first public foray since you disappeared in a cloud of Paula Broadwell -- whatever advice you've been buying seems to be working. You came, you apologized, you received a standing ovation. The media melted all over again into a puddle of admiration, further obscuring the real reasons you should be not apologizing before a gala crowd, but rather testifying before the American people: those national scandals you have so far successfully left in your dust.

I have previously addressed such scandals and will do so again: lying to the House Intelligence Committee about Benghazi twice; causing death and dismemberment of U.S. forces by directing them to walk the IED-packed roads of Afghanistan as part of a counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy to win Afghans' trust; and your see-no-Islam COIN strategy itself. For the moment, though, as you seek and already seem to have received public forgiveness, there is something else to consider: What you can do to give meaning to your words.

It's not enough to time your first public address in five months to coincide with an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal this week to make the case, in subtext, that it's not just your own next act that concerns you but also the plight of some 3 million returning veterans who may find themselves, as you write, at the bottom of the corporate ladder, underemployed or in dead-end jobs. In conclusion, you write, Now it is our turn to do our part to help (veterans) build promising futures for themselves and their families.

Here's an idea -- gratis -- to make us trust the sincerity of your call to help veterans and their families build those promising futures. Take that apparently bulletproof reputation of yours and use it to seek clemency for the so-called Leavenworth 10.

This tag refers to a group of American soldiers now serving long prison terms mainly at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., for crimes committed on your COIN battlefield in Iraq, and also Afghanistan. Across time and space, from desks in orderly offices peering into ghastly battlefields, obsessed military prosecutors have been able to see murder and even premeditated murder in the eyes of these soldiers who were blinded by the densest fog of war.

Diana West

Diana West is the author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character (St. Martin's Press, 2013), and The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization (St. Martin's Press, 2007).