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.
“The Times made a thoughtful, deliberate, and justifiable decision to publish those images,” he says. “They make a justifiable case for the journalistic purpose in publishing those photos. I believe they honored the ethical principle of revealing the truth as fully as possible.”
Part of the Times's purpose apparently comes from the motivations of the soldier who gave the paper the photos. He said he wanted to draw attention to the safety risk of a breakdown in leadership and discipline. He notes that virtually all of the soldiers in the photos had friends who were killed or wounded by homemade bombs or suicide attacks. “They were frustrated … their buddies had been blown up by IEDs. So they sort of celebrated,” he told the Times.
But other experts say the Pentagon had a compelling case.
"Printing the photos is ill-advised because they show American soldiers in a negative light, are inflammatory, and will speed to the Middle East virally on the Internet, endangering the lives of other solders," says Sally Mounts, president of Auctus Consulting Group, a public relations strategy firm.