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Did Los Angeles Times make right call on photos of dead Afghans?

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Two of 18 received photos are published in Wednesday's newspaper, and others are only described. A Page 1 photo shows the eyes-open head of a deceased Afghan insurgent, and one on Page 4 shows soldiers of the 4th brigade of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division – along with Afghan police – holding up the severed legs of a corpse. US soldiers are grinning in both photos.

Not shown are pictures of two soldiers who reportedly pose holding a dead man’s hand with the middle finger raised, and another with a soldier clutching the hand of a bearded corpse next to other remains where someone placed an unofficial platoon patch reading “Zombie Hunter.”

The Times's Mr. Maharaj notes that the paper chose to publish only a "small but representative selection of the photos."

The graphic nature of the photos is part of their significance, says Ben Agger, director of the Center for Theory in the sociology department of the University of Texas at Arlington.

“The war in Vietnam ended because US journalists depicted grotesque death, which turned Americans against the war and drove [President] Johnson from office," he says via e-mail, suggesting that today's photos could have a similar effect on the Afghan war.  

Backing the Times decision is Robert Steele of The Poynter Institute, a school in St. Petersburg, Fla., that aims to promote quality journalism.

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