Here’s what we know. First, our reasons for going to war in Iraq were almost entirely based on fabrications and fantasies. There were no weapons of mass destruction, there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attacks, and there was no threat of Iraq acquiring nuclear weapons.

That Saddam was a bad man is beyond doubt, but we cannot make it our practice to wage war against every despotic ruler that comes along. The bottom line here is this war did not even come close to meeting the criteria for a Just War.

We also know that with the removal of Hussein’s iron fisted rule, a bloody civil war is underway and we are in the middle of it. Our presence there only makes a bad situation even more deadly–for our troops and for innocent civilians who are caught in the crossfire.

We also know that if we attempt a rapid withdrawal, the last group out will be the most vulnerable. As troop strength declines, insurgents will most certainly increase their deadly activity and inflict enormous harm on our young men and women serving in the military.

Finally, and perhaps as troubling as anything, we know we have done irreparable harm to our reputation in the Middle East, and with the rest of the world. The waging of a preemptive war, the revelations about torture and secret detentions, these are behaviors no one would ever have associated with the United States.

So what do we do?

Two American religious leaders are proposing a bold and dramatic solution to all this that deserves some careful consideration.

Michael Lerner, a Jewish Rabbi and editor of Tikkun magazine, and Tony Campolo, a Baptist evangelist and seminary professor, are calling for an end to American presence in Iraq immediately. Their plan proposes a three fold approach for healing the awful wound we have created in Iraq.

First, we must repent. The war was and is wrong and we should say so.

Second, the United States should call upon the Arab League to replace the U.S. and British forces with Arab soldiers. If we just leave it will create a vacuum that will undoubtedly result in the slaughter of thousands in fierce sectarian conflict. Lerner and Campolo suggest that we invite other Arabs to police and manage the situation until a stable government and security force can be established.

Third, launch a massive Global Marshall Plan. The original Marshall plan was the brainchild of Secretary of State George C. Marshall that sent nearly $20 billion in economic aid into the post-World War II Europe.

The Global plan Lerner and Campolo describe calls on the United States to commit one percent of our Gross National Product for the next 20 years to address issues of poverty, hunger and disease worldwide. And especially in the war torn Middle East. The two religious leaders point out that this will be considerably less than the $2 billion a week the current war is costing us.

Lerner and Campolo’s plan is a good biblical model. It provides for repentance and restitution. It allows us to demonstrate love for both our enemy and our neighbor. And it provides a way for us to leave Iraq with honor while at the same time creating an opportunity for that nation to begin the process of healing.

If we are serious about being a nation that values faith, then this plan deserves consideration.

James L. Evans, a syndicated columnist, also serves as pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala.

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