Look at Baghdad through the eyes of its cartoonists and you will see a different city than the one captured by the zoom lenses of Fox News and al-Jazeera. On TV news you rarely see an Iraqi smile or wink. In cartoons, they do it all the time.

In the graphic art of the city's freewheeling newspapers, the life of Baghdad takes on a more human and familiar dimension. Here the daily indignities of the U.S. occupation are endured with astonished bemusement. It is a place where the politicians are sincerely corrupt and hope can be hazardous to your health. Yet cheerful fatalism and a rueful perseverance are rarely absent.

Since January, the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting has published a wide variety of cartoons gathered by its Iraqi Press Monitor, a daily survey of Iraqi publications. The images collected on the IWPR Web site trace the arc of Iraqi public opinion in recent months -- from an American eagle pouncing on the rodent-like Saddam Hussein last winter to the infamous image of a hooded Iraqi prisoner whose wounds are patched with the Band-Aids labeled "apology."

These sketches capture what other media may miss: the realities of Iraq's politics as they are lived in daily life.

Images of Iraqis caught between or besieged by greater forces (U.S. soldiers, jihadists, terrorism) are common. So is the quest for food and money. The city's omnipresent security barriers loom large. So do class differences. Another common scene: Sophisticated people in Western garb blather about politics in the abstract while the common man in traditional Arab robes speaks plainly.

Happy faces abound in these cartoons, if only to underscore that appearances are deceiving. The U.S. soldiers grin cluelessly. Returning Baathists smirk. Government ministers beam in expectation of bribes. And all the way through are average Iraqis, sometimes cross-eyed, sometimes bug-eyed. They look amused and appalled at the absurd predicament of a people both liberated and occupied.

Author's e-mail: jeff.morley@wpni.com

Jefferson Morley writes the "World Opinion Roundup" column that appears Tuesdays and Thursdays on washingtonpost.com.

Addustour, Jan. 23

A high point of Iraqi regard for the United States. This cartoon from the independent daily Addustour shows the U.S. eagle catching the rodent-like Saddam Hussein. The shining sun is labeled the "New Iraq."Al-Nahdhah, April 22

A mother sends her son off to school with the admonition, "Darling, drink your milk so that you can resist when you get kidnapped." With crime at an all-time high, personal security is the number-one issue for most Baghdadis. This cartoon appeared in al-Nahdhah, a publication associated with Adnan Pachachi, a former Iraqi diplomat and member of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council.Al-Mutamar, April 13

The caption of this cartoon, which appeared after U.S. authorities shut down a weekly newspaper published by cleric Moqtada Sadr, says, "The new American vision of the Iraqi citizen." The criticism is noteworthy because the cartoon ran in al-Mutamar, a daily newspaper under the influence of banker-politician Ahmed Chalabi. Until recently, Chalabi was the White House's favorite Iraqi leader.Al-Mada, April 21

A smiling Westernized official holds a document titled "Privatizing the public sector." The thief -- described as "looting" -- says, "Don't bother. We privatized it before you." This cartoon in the independent weekly al-Mada voices skepticism about the economic plans of U.S. occupation authorities, likening their free-market policies to the wave of criminal looting that devastated Baghdad last April.Al-Asharq Awsat, April 9

"Coming changes" reads the caption of this cartoon from al-Asharq Awsat, a pro-Saudi, London-based newspaper that circulates in Baghdad. As Arabic is read from right to left, so are the faces in this drawing. Published in the aftermath of the U.S. assault on Fallujah, the evolving images reflect the widespread feeling that the United States was resorting to the same brutal tactics as Saddam Hussein.Al-Sabah, May 13

The sign in this cartoon in al-Sabah points to "Abu Ghraib Prison," and the man is saying, "I'd rather be killed than go to that prison." Al-Sabah is a daily newspaper sponsored by the Coalition Provisional Authority.