Given that this story is really hot right now, I think Xanthippas' prediction is confirmed:
So how will this go over? There are those on the left who will see this as an indictment of the war, and further reason to leave. They will be met by either a deafening silence or various rationalizations by those on the right who support the war and don't care to talk about any of their military heroes being murderers and rapists.
I think their tactic is mainly going to be silence right now. Doing a quick search online netted me one result on a conservative forum, freerepublic.com.
Two types of comments clued me in to conservative sentiment on this issue. First was, "Innocent until proven guilty", which would be a slam against the "liberal" media for portraying him as guilty without having proven it in court. Second is that this is just another incident of the liberal media jumping on stories that criticize the war, occupation, soldiers, et al.
We might accept these as valid arguments, but even so I don't think the conservative blogosphere or commentators are going to really run this story at the moment. As for the first argument, the guy looks guilty as hell. First, he was turned in by other soldiers, which means that for conservatives to attack the attacks on him, they'd have to impugn other soldiers. That's a lose-lose situation. Second, since he looks so guilty, it's not looking likely that any preemptive defense of him will be borne out in court. No one, liberal or conservative, wants to stick their neck out when it'll probably get their head cut off.
As for the second argument, hopefully the American populace isn't so jaded that they'd rather have this kind of story buried under yet another story about an IED killing two of our soldiers. Our soldiers are soldiers. This 15 year-old girl didn't volunteer to go to a country at war and risk her life. That's just where she ended up.
Now I admit, the liberal blogosphere is probably going to go a little crazier on this one than it should. As Xanthippas said:
This particular war had nothing to do with what this guy and his cohorts did, except it gave them the circumstances in which they thought they could get away with something like this, like all wars do. The vast majority of soldiers are decent guys doing their jobs, but all armies have their share of criminals and psychos and ours is no exception. And whatever I normally feel about the death penalty, this guy should be put to death and anyone who helped him, or even helped him try to cover up what he did, should die in prison.
I completely agree. This could have or would have happened in any war, past or future, that America fought. It's just another one of the horrible aspects of war that make me fervently disapprove of war except in extraordinary situations. But there's my point. This happens in war. Atrocities happen in war, committed both by the "bad guys" and the "good guys". Our side and theirs. We can't know if we're hearing of most or all of the atrocities committed by jihadis/insurgents, but we can safely say that both more atrocities have been committed in the past by our side than we have admitted and more will be committed by our troops. I won't bore you with any studies of why that is, just go to your local library and check a book out on the subject.
Of course we can't forget that this isn't the first story of atrocity we have heard. Remember this? I also know of a story that's never been reported anywhere. A soldier I peraonally knew killed an Iraqi civilian without provocation. Who knows how often this kind of thing happens?
Not to overplay the importance of a few bad apples in an otherwise great army, but the bad ones are the ones that we need more scrutiny of and the military needs to do a better job of keeping them out. That's why we have to talk about these stories. It's an injustice to the victims to do otherwise.