This week, the voters of Colombia shocked their government, and the world, by rejecting a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
The reason was simple: the people of Colombia felt their leaders had given away too much to the terrorists, denying justice to the victims and creating incentives for future terror.
But no one had listened to them. The Obama administration, for example, was heavily invested in the peace deal as part of its outreach to the Castro regime; Kerry even witnessed the signing of the deal last month.
In the U.S., one of the few voices against the deal was Wall Street Journal columnist Mary Anastasia O’Grady, who warned that the deal was “practically a surrender”:
The deal gives the FARC amnesty for its war crimes, which include the recruitment of thousands of child soldiers, massacres of villages, political executions, bombings and kidnappings.
Under the agreement, negotiated and signed in Havana, the FARC will also get unelected seats in Congress and special welfare benefits. It will be given dozens of radio stations—so that it can disseminate its propaganda, a privilege no other political party has.
The agreement does not require the FARC to pay any financial reparations to its victims, even though the narco-terrorist kingpins have wealth estimated in the billions. Reparations will be paid by law-abiding citizens via sharp tax increases. The FARC says it will not disarm until it’s good and ready to. Meanwhile it will be given weapons and training to enforce the agreement.
Colombians were also angry that President Juan Manuel Santos had taken the peace agreement to the United Nations before securing the support of the people. He declared to the UN General Assembly last month: “I return to the United Nations today, on the International Day of Peace, to announce with all the strength of my voice and my heart, that the war in Colombia has ended.” (Update: Santos won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.)
Yet there are two ways to end a war — through victory, or surrender. Colombians rejected the latter.
O’Grady notes that the Colombian government resorted to a variety of illiberal methods to campaign for the peace deal, such as promising to spend government funds in areas that voted “yes.” The government also warned that voting “no” meant returning to war.
Never mind that the last Colombian president, Álvaro Uribe, had pushed FARC back on the battlefield, and that the rebels were weakened as a result. His successor gave those hard-fought gains away for nothing.
Now the Colombian government will return to the negotiating table — strengthened, ironically, by the fact that the people have rejected more lenient terms brokered under Havana’s watchful eye. The cease-fire with FARC could end on October 31, but the people of Colombia have faced that risk, and decided that the price of an illusory peace was even heavier.
Theirs was an extraordinarily brave decision — especially since the regions closest to the fighting led the nation in voting “no.”
The Colombian people were able to exercise a choice that the American people never had when it came to the Iran deal. A new Breitbart/Gravis poll released this week confirms that the voters still reject the deal.
Americans know Iran has no desire for peace, that the agreement allows Iran to continue its nuclear weapons program in future years, and that the regime will cheat. Americans have consistently rejected the deal — along with its grotesque side deals, including ransoms for hostages.
The Constitution requires that all treaties be ratified by a two-thirds vote in the Senate. So the Obama administration, knowing that the Senate would reject the pathetically weak terms to which it had agreed, called the Iran deal an “executive agreement,”
Then Congress spoke up with the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, demanding the power to reject the deal — while lowering the threshold for approval to an effective one-third of either house, (which is why Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) voted against it). That wasn’t good enough for President Barack Obama, who took the deal to the UN Security Council first, then presented Congress with a fait accompli and dared it to risk war.
In the end, Democrats filibustered, and there was no vote. The first time the American electorate will have a chance to speak out about the Iran deal is in the 2016 presidential election.
Both Santos and Obama sought to appease terrorism, using the UN for leverage against their own people. The big difference is that Santos submitted his agreement to the voters, recognizing their sovereignty. Obama did not have the decency to do that, despite the clear intent of the Framers of the Constitution that the people, through Congress, would decide war and peace.
The recent Brexit vote did not quite involve life and death, but saw a similar pattern, where the “remain” campaign tried to use fears of economic collapse, and international leverage, to quash the voters’ desire for greater sovereignty over Britain’s borders and economic affairs.
When treaties and transnational institutions are abused in such anti-democratic fashion, it is no surprise globalization has few defenders left, even though the benefits of (real) peace, and (truly) free trade, are elementary.
From Brexit, to the Iran deal, to “peace” with FARC, voters have been warned that rejecting the poor terms negotiated by their feckless leaders would mean disaster.
The British and Colombian voters have spoken, bravely. Now, finally, Americans will have a turn.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, is available from Regnery through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.