Winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting for his work in The Washington Post, Shadid, an Arabic-speaking American of Lebanese ancestry, offers a gripping account of just what the subtitle describes. His is not so much the story of why and how the United States got into this war, nor of the political dynamics in Iraq before and after Saddam Hussein. Those matters are there in the background, but Shadid's subject is the people of Iraq -- what they thought and how they responded to their situation in the last days of Saddam's brutal reign, during the short, successful American invasion, and thereafter into the turbulent and insecure period of occupation. To tell such a story well one must be embedded in and accepted by the host society while being able to pick up its cultural cues. This Shadid accomplishes. He is wary of drawing lessons, coming closest in bemoaning "the inevitable divorce between war's aims and its reality." At least one other lesson is surely implicit: an alien invasion to overthrow even the worst of tyrants will not long be welcomed if the ensuing occupation cannot provide at least minimal public security.