On Wednesday, in a live chat with readers, Times Editor Davan Maharaj talked about the front-page story on U.S. troops posing with body parts from Afghan suicide bombers.
The story, and the two photos that accompanied it, outline how a unit of the 82nd Airborne Division posed with remains when sent on two missions attempting to get identification of the dead bombers. The Pentagon has denounced the behavior depicted in the photos and has launched a criminal investigation.
The Defense Department had asked The Times not to run the photos. After careful consideration, Maharaj said, the paper decided to proceed, selecting two photos out of 18 to be published.
The soldier who gave the photos to The Times said he hoped their publication would help ensure that disciplinary breakdowns, which endanger troop safety, would not be repeated.
A transcript of the discussion with readers follows:
Roger Smith: I’m Roger Smith, the national editor of the Los Angeles Times. I’m here with Davan Maharaj, the editor of the paper, to discuss the LA Times story on U.S. troops posing with body parts from Afghan suicide bombers.
We’ll get started with some questions we have already collected from readers, and invite you to join in with your questions.
11:05 comment from Steve Myers: Can you tell me how you decided which photos to publish?
11:05 Davan Maharaj: Hi Steve, the two photos published were chosen because they clearly and unambiguously depict conduct that the Army described as inappropriate. In examining the full set of images, we set aside others on grounds of taste, relevance or repetitiousness. Some were too gruesome. Others were very similar to the two images already chosen or were difficult to interpret.
11:07 Roger Smith: Why did you decide to publish despite the Pentagon request that you not?