By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jun 25, 2004 at 5:15 AM

{image1}Whether or not you agree with George Bush on taxes, war, civil rights, the environment or any other hot issue, it's hard to deny much of what Michael Moore -- who himself is a touchstone for controversy -- reveals in his latest film "Fahrenheit 9/11."

This two-hour film has earned Moore all manner of accolades, pans and publicity, thanks mostly to Disney's refusal to distribute it and the fact that it won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival this year.

After a sad and irksome section about Congress' lack of desire to deal with the election controversy in 2000, effectively disenfranchising thousands of mostly African-American voters in Florida, Moore focuses on the terrorist attack on New York and Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001.

He coolly unfolds a map of the Bush family relationship not only with the Saudis, but with the Bin Laden family specifically; a relationship that has endured for years (you may or may not also be surprised to find out that Hamid Karzai and other effectively Bush-appointed Afghan officials were advisors to an energy company that has employed the senior George Bush for many years. Upon taking office, one of Karzai's first tasks was to help push through a pipeline project for this company).

So influential are the Bin Ladens with the Bush family that when no one -- not even Ricky Martin, Moore points out -- could get a flight in America in the days after 9/11, the Bin Laden family and dozens of other Saudis were cleared for take-off, so they could avoid not only unpleasant comments on the street, but also questioning by the FBI. Such questioning would, of course, normally be routine in any such situation.

According to Moore, going back to George Bush's "military days" when he had a pal who worked as the American money manager for the Bin Ladens, the Bush family -- and their friends and associates -- have received $1.4 billion from the Saudis, mostly in the form of investments in their businesses. The presidential salary is less than a half-million dollars a year. So, it's no surprise that George Bush -- and his pals like James Baker, whose firm defended the Saudis in the lawsuit brought by families of 9/11 victims -- might be more interested in the Bin Ladens than he is in you or me.

Moore then looks at the war in Iraq and how American industry -- and especially businesses with entrée into the White House -- stand to gain from the war in Iraq. He looks at the make-up of the armed forces and wonders why no members of Congress are willing to sign up their child to fight (just one member has a child in the military). He follows high-pressure recruiters as they attempt to get fresh meat at a mall in Michigan. He talks to a woman who supported the war until her son was killed in Karbala.

Moore does his homework, and he's got a knack for uncovering footage and documents (in fact, he was reportedly the first in America to have footage of the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, but chose not to release it to the media). More than ever, he is careful to show that documentation whenever he can, because he knows there will be attempts to discredit him.

Alas, he's the best at discrediting himself. His film is well-considered, vitriolic and engaging (and of course, playful, funny and sad). Except, that is, when he turns the camera on himself. Then, while he's a passionate but temperate narrator, he injects a bit too much ego -- and that sadistic wit that makes him so easily dislikable to many -- into the mix, and we wish he'd just get back to the facts.

But now that the myth of the liberal American media has been laid to rest by the rewriting of history that took place in the wake of the death of Ronald Reagan (in case reporters getting in bed, rather, being "embedding" with the military wasn't proof enough), people like Moore are among the few with the passion and the reach to tell it like he sees it.

Sure, Moore's got an agenda, just like anyone, but conservative, liberal or lefty, it's hard to imagine that anyone -- barring rich businessmen and the moneyed Saudis hanging out at the Texas ranch -- could see this film and not be really, really teed off (which reminds us of Moore's factoid that in the months leading up to September 11, George Bush had been on vacation 42 percent of the time he'd been in office -- often playing golf!).

"Fahrenheit 9/11" is now showing.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.