For the past few months, it's been difficult for Americans to focus on anything but the economy. But events in Mumbai, India this past week should serve to remind us that our government has other purposes besides providing financial succor for failing capitalists.
It's hardly a coincidence that in a teeming city of many millions, the Mumbai terrorists sought out the small Jewish outreach center there run by the Chabad movement. With more than 170 other victims in the city, the rabbi and his wife who ran the center, as well as a few Jewish travelers who happened to be visiting there, were murdered in cold blood.
Even more to the point, the attacks ought to remind both the American people and the incoming Obama administration that the battle against Islamist terror is not a chapter of American history that will be closed with the exit of George W. Bush from the White House.
As the memory of Sept. 11 fades further into the background, many of us have tended to forget the lessons that we vowed never to forget in the aftermath of that terrible day. An unpopular war in Iraq and the inconclusive fighting in Afghanistan have tried our patience. Disputes over legal approaches to convicting terrorists and the question of how to treat terror suspects have overshadowed the imperative to mobilize the resources of the entire nation in an effort to root out and destroy the Islamist killers. But the urge to slip back to the complacence of the pre-Sept. 11 mindset is a temptation that must be resisted.
Another reminder of the issue of terrorism also came last week from a courtroom in Dallas, Texas. There, a federal jury found five leaders of a Muslim "charity" guilty of financing terrorism, money laundering and tax fraud.
Throughout the 1990s, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development funneled money raised in the United States to Hamas terrorists operating in the Middle East. Under the guise of aiding poverty-stricken Palestinians, Holy Land directed money to help pay the survivors of suicide bombers and generally subsidized the operations of Hamas. But it was not until after 9/11 that the U.S. government closed it and began the process of holding its organizers accountable for helping Hamas murder numerous Israelis and Americans.
The defenders of this group have long claimed that the government and supporters of Israel have engaged in "fear mongering" to aid the prosecution. But the truth is, this group was nothing less than an American branch of a terrorist group whose tactics do not differ from those of the Mumbai killers. The real scandal is not that the government has finally gotten a jury to hold these people responsible for their actions, but that all too many Americans have treated groups like the Holy Land Foundation and the Council on American Islamic Relations as legitimate spokespersons for Muslims and Arabs in this country.
CAIR, which was founded as a public-relations offshoot of Holy Land, has prospered in recent years and gained recognition from leading American politicians, including members of Congress and the governor of Pennsylvania, who attended a fundraiser for its Philadelphia branch last year. But, as the record of the Holy Land trial reveals, CAIR was up to its neck in pro-Hamas activity.
The success of the Holy Land prosecution illustrates that, though many mistakes were made by the Bush administration in the wake of Sept. 11, the need to seek out and punish all those associated with Islamist terror is an issue that transcends partisanship.
The incoming administration cannot afford to take a wait-and-see attitude about what to do about those who foment and fund terrorism. Whether the target is a hotel in India, a seder in Jerusalem or an office building in New York City, the threat to civilization from Islamist killers is one that is ignored only at our peril.