ON SUNDAY, the representative of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini at the Iranian embassy poured more than 4,000 bottles of wines and liquors, including over 40 cases of gin and vodka, and 16 or vermouth, into a small fountain and down the drain - thereby simultaneously mixing and disposing of the largest and driest martini in history. The ayatollah himself had ordered this outpouring as a graphic renunciation of the corruption of the shah and of the former ambassador, Ardeshir Zahedi. "If you want to build an Islamic republic on principle," he is reported to have said, "then you want to start it clean."
A noble thought, the abjuring of luxury, and historically grounded as well. It goes back even before the Romans to the Israelites who regarded luxury as a political sin as well as a personal one, and forward to Augustine and Aquinas, who saw luxury as both antidemocratic and ungodly. The Koran expressly prohibits the consumption of alcohol, so the ayatollah has his own ground to stand on. All of which might show his drying-out policy in a pure and admirable light, were not his demonstration of piety set against the continuing horror show of the Iranian executions.
Coincidently, on the same day the shah's liquor was flowing, the now famous Islamic revolutionary firing squads were moving down three more enemies of the people - this time an accused rapist, and two accused homosexuals - bringing their work to a currently estimated total of 229. That is a lot of people, though not more than the shah's liquor bottles. Yet they have been disposed of as easily, with secret procedures and no due process. "If you want to build an Islamic republic on principle, then you want to start clean."
Evidently the ayatollah regards justice as much as of a luxury as booze. He may discover that hypocrisy is the luxury he can't afford.