Kremlin shows its colors

NOTHING illustrates the elemental difference between life in the United States and in the Soviet Union as graphically as Moscow's callous treatment of dissidents Andrei Sakharov and his wife, Yelena Bonner.

The US offers freedom of thought, expression, and travel to its citizens - whether the government agrees with their views or not. The Soviet Union offers none of these freedoms, and - as in this case - can be harsh and punitive when Soviet citizens try to assert independence of thought and word.

When the American government makes mistakes, ultimately it reverses direction and rectifies them, albeit sometimes after a very long time: Watergate, the Vietnam war, the denial of civil rights to black citizens.

In human rights the Soviet Union does not even admit to having made mistakes, let alone correct them. It tries to isolate independent thinkers who embarrass it: Nobel-laureate Sakharov was first banished to Gorky, then was apparently taken from his home by the authorities after having begun a hunger strike.

It is hardly the first time dissidents have received such treatment at the hands of the men in Moscow. And it makes a mockery of the pious Kremlin contentions that the Soviet Union is the champion of the world's downtrodden.

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