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  Tara Dorabji Leads Weapons Lab Protesters   
by: Francis C. Assisi    (francis@indolink.com)
Among Indo-Americans there is a generational difference that is as ideologically based as it is palpable.

While the first generation more or less mainstreams, basking in the comfort of the model minority myth, the second generation has chosen otherwise.

While the first generation waves the flag for fear that they will be targeted by hate crimes, the second generation has the guts to proclaim that it is equally patriotic to protest, and to engage in acts of civil disobedience.

Tara Dorabji, of California, for example, has a passion that’s focused on disarmament. And her statements are bound to upset the status quo: "If we want other countries to have weapons inspections, let us start here at home," she says with convincing logic. She articulates her concern: “The White House demands that other countries be inspected and disarm, but is busily building the U.S. nuclear arsenal.”

Dorabji has come to grips with the frightening truth that Weapons of mass destruction are right in her backyard. That backyard happens to be, Livermore, where the government’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) is engaged in designing, developing and testing next generation nuclear weapons. It is also home to the government sponsored Sandia Labs, an offshoot of the one in Los Alamos, where weapons research is a key activity.

Which is why she points out that the Bush administration´s aim to free the world of nuclear weapons isn’t being applied to the United States. “While loudly demanding that other countries dump their suspected nuclear weapons, the Bush administration is ramping up its own nuclear program,” observes Dorabji, who is the Outreach and Community Organizer at Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment (CAREs) in Livermore. CAREs motto is "peace, justice and the environment".

“We must mobilize now, or risk the U.S. using nuclear weapons in one of its wars on terror,” Dorabji warns.

Last Sunday (August 10) under the baton of CAREs, the Livermore based group that "watchdogs" LLNL, it was Dorabji who led the nearly 1200 protesters at Livermore to encircle the weapons research lab in the 20th annual ‘Hands Around the Lab’ protest.

Dorabji graduated three years ago from UC Santa Cruz, with honors in Environmental Studies. She heads "Project Exodus" a campaign designed to stop the University of California from collaborating on nuclear weapons. The project speaks directly to scientists and engineers at Livermore Lab, to raise their consciousness about nuclear weapons work conducted there and encourage employees to renounce work on nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. In one recent campaign the group created quite a stir by asking UC Davis engineering students to pledge not to work on weapons of mass destruction.

In an e-mail interview with this correspondent Dorabji explained the roots of her community activism: “Here in Livermore, the violence of our community is most represented through the development of nuclear weapons. The community is victim to the leaks, spills and accidents. People of the world are threatened by the existence and potential use of these weapons of mass destruction. I am abolitionist at heart. However, my organizing right now focuses on stopping the development of new earth penetrating and variable yield nuclear weapons. The U.S. nuclear posture focuses on using nuclear weapons. If people do not start resisting the development of nuclear weapons, the potential use of them, goes unchecked.”

She added: “I believe that community is the center of life and that you have to work to create community and be innovative in how you inspire positive social change. I am very aware that many people are suffering throughout the world. I see the inequity and the poverty and am dedicated to creating communities that address these issues.”

Asked what kind of personal battles she has to face while leading protests, Dorabji admits: “Organizing in Livermore, where the Lab is a major employer makes it difficult. The recent anti-war movement in Livermore is subject to loud patriotic, calls for bombing, for death and other hate filled remarks. However, overall in my work there is much respect, even from Lab employees. They may roll their eyes from time to time, event snort in disgust, but we have facts and figures to back our case.”

Dorabji observes: "The true history of Livermore Lab is a two-fold tale - containing both the narrative of the making of horrific nuclear weapons of mass destruction, and, inextricably linked, the still partly-hidden account of the accidents, spills, leaks, explosions and fires that have spewed toxic and radioactive materials into the community."

Observers admit that Tri-Valley CAREs is the only group that has consistently kept a watchful, and skeptical, eye on the lab.

According to Dorabji, the Bush administration’s push for mini-nukes is part of a changing, more aggressive U.S. nuclear policy. “George Bush is making the world an ever more dangerous place.”

Developing mini-nukes is part of the Bush administration´s new, explicitly offensive military strategy. Until recently, nuclear weapons were seen primarily as a defensive "deterrent." But the White House now wants them taken off the shelf and tailor-made for offensive use in its open-ended "war on terror," Dorabji explains.

And as the anti-nuclear and disarmament protesters, joined in a "symbolic encirclement" of LLNL last Sunday, Tara Dorabji observed:"People are seeing after the Iraq war that weapons of mass destruction are not just a concern in other countries, but that there´s an explicit, offensive nuclear weapons program right here in the United States.” The rally and march held at Robert Payne Park in Livermore featuring speakers, art displays and music, was also intended to remember the horrific bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima and say “never again” to nuclear war.

Two days earlier, on August 8th, as demonstrators gathered to start a protest march in San Francisco, Dorabji exhorted the protesters: "Where are these weapons of mass destruction? Are they in Iraq, or are they here in the Bay Area?" The protesters marched through the city protesting the military´s postwar presence in Iraq. It was also in memory of Hiroshima.

Last November On Veteran´s Day, Dorabji led civilian weapons inspection teams including representatives from community, veterans and student groups to deliver a notice of intent to inspect LLNL’s facilities. The six-page letter quotes directly from United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441 on Iraq, adopted November 8, 2002, demanding, "immediate, unimpeded unconditional, and unrestricted access to any and all, including underground, areas, facilities, buildings, equipment, records, and means of transport," at Livermore nuclear weapons Lab.

The demand for “immediate, unimpeded, unconditional, and unrestricted access” to Livermore—language lifted from the UN Security Council resolution on Iraq—might seem tongue-in-cheek, but representatives from the peace groups were dead serious. “We are demanding an end to all weapons of mass destruction,” Dorabji told the crowd, “whether developed in the suburbs by the University of California scientists or in Iraq.”

Today, observes Dorabji: "There is overwhelming evidence that Livermore Lab is developing the next generation of weapons of mass destruction," such as the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator. “We are absolutely committed to eliminating the threat posed by those weapons whether they are in Iraq or right here in the suburbs of a major metropolitan area."

One pro nuke demonstrator sought to provoke the peace activists: “Yeah, we´re America, we have the biggest baddest weapons of them all. You freaks need to get a life If you don´t like what our government is doing and you think America is so big and bad, move to another country. Like Iraq.”

But Dorabji insists: “Now, more than ever, it is vital to send a resounding message that we reject the Bush administration´s aggressive nuclear policies and call for immediate steps to negotiate the elimination of all nuclear weapons everywhere. Global disarmament starts at home; it is time to disarm America.”

Not everyone likes CAREs. Many locals support the lab; with 7,500 full-time workers, it is by far the city´s largest employer. Inside the lab, many are dismissive. One of the biggest complaints from those outside the lab is that Tri-Valley CAREs says it represents the community, when, in fact, it is supported by only a fraction.

CAREs founder Marylia Kelley is a trained journalist and the groups most visible spokesperson: "I think the fact that someone is watching the laboratory has made a difference in how the lab operates, and it has made a difference in the community feeling more empowered and understanding that it has a right to clean soil, clean air, clean water." LLNL members have grudging respect for Kelley´s ability to tackle complicated lab issues head-on -- from cracked laser glass to nuclear weapons deployment to solvents in the groundwater.

Kathy Setian, who oversees the lab site for the EPA, is so impressed with Tri-Valley CAREs´ environmental work that she nominated it for a national community group’s award, which it won. "The role (CAREs) plays is exemplary in providing tough but reasonable comments and questions that I think have helped DOE and the regulators," observes Setian.