Must See TV: My Trip to Al-Qaeda on HBO

On Tuesday, September 7, HBO airs the documentary My Trip to Al-Qaeda by Alex Gibney and Lawrence Wright. It should not be missed.

Wright's most recent book, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, won the '07 Pulitzer Prize for Non-Fiction. It's the best book yet about the complexities surrounding that tragedy, and begat a one-man play, which begat this latest effort.

Gibney won the '07 Best Documentary Academy Award for Taxi to the Dark Side, about an innocent driver tortured and killed at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. He also had an Oscar nomination in '06 for Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. His work speaks for itself.

This new film isn't some cookie-cutter analysis of Islamic terror. There is no "Bring it on" bumper sticker sloganeering to appease conservative ideologues. In fact, there's no appeasing of either side. Rather, it's a deliberative, thought-provoking walk-through of the people who birthed that nightmare and their motivations, which are at once religious, cultural and economic. There's some anger and heat expressed, but the goal is to shine a light instead of fomenting confusion. There's also plenty of globe-trotting gumshoe reporting by Wright, a longtime staffer at The New Yorker.

If you didn't read The Looming Tower or see the play (and most of us didn't, after all), then devote an hour and a half to this nationally televised film on September 7. You'll be smarter for it.