September 11, 2001 11:00 pm

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Eastern Oregon University history professor A. Shapur Shahbazi does not qualify his remarks when discussing Tuesdays terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C.

My heart is filled with sorrow. This is the most devastating and cowardly act in history that I know of. I cannot believe what happened, said Shahbazi, an internationally recognized scholar.

Shahbazi, who is from Iran and has been at Eastern since 1985, said criminal acts like this are easier for people to commit today because of their access to technology, a two-edged sword. Technology saves lives but it also gives criminals the power to take them away, he said.

He said criminals have a vast array of information available to them which they did not have years ago. Much of it is accessible via the Internet.

He said criminals have greater opportunities to do damage in the United States because of the freedom people have.

America is a bastion of freedom. There are possibilities (for good things) that no other country has. The criminal mind can use these freedoms, Shahbazi said.

He said United States intelligence officials have done a good job in the past of foiling terrorists.

Shahbazi said occasionally an intelligence organization cannot match the capabilities of criminal minds with high levels of information and the extra power of suicide.

The professor said that technology is making it possible for people who are willing to give up their lives to be more destructive. He cited Japans World War II kamikaze pilots as an example. The suicide pilots did tremendous damage by crashing into enemy ships. Shahbazi said the pilots would have done greater damage today because of more advanced aircraft.

The Eastern history professor said Tuesdays jet crashes would have done much less damage if the aircraft had not originated in nearby Boston.

Shahbazi said the jets were filled with fuel because they had just taken off and when they hit the World Trade Center towers they caused them to burst into flames.

They were absolutely tankers of fuel, Shahbazi said. If they had flown from San Francisco there would have been much less damage (because their fuel supplies would have been low).

Shahbazi said some American airports have been prone to terrorism because of lax security.

He said the public can help with security by being tolerant and patient as security checks are carried out.

Dont get impatient if your flight is late, Shahbazi said.

He said people should not be drawn to quick conclusions about who is responsible for the attacks. Shahbazi said people blamed innocent nations after the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1996. A former U.S. Marine, Timothy McVeigh, was convicted of the bombing.

We have to be careful (about making judgments) until all the evidence is in, Shahbazi said.