Over the past few months, several groups of individuals in Iraq have taken to kidnapping, torturing, and beheading innocent civilians, bombing vehicles and buildings at random times in random public locations, and generally intimidating the population in an effort to coerce the U.S. and other governments into meeting their fanatical religious demands.

The definitions below are taken from the Merriam-Webster OnLine dictionary.

rebel (noun): one who rebels
rebel (intransitive verb):
1 a : to oppose or disobey one in authority or control b : to renounce and resist by force the authority of one’s government
2 a : to act in or show opposition or disobedience b : to feel or exhibit anger or revulsion

Note that the word “rebel” is reminiscent of Luke Skywalker’s resistance against an evil empire, but that it also includes much more mild forms of disobedience like rebelling against “conventions of polite society.”

insurgent (noun):
1 : a person who revolts against civil authority or an established government; especially : a rebel not recognized as a belligerent
2 : one who acts contrary to the policies and decisions of one’s own political party

Note that “insurgents” do not necessarily spread violence and terror, and that this word should probably be reserved for those who are “not recognized as a belligerent.”

terrorist (adjective or noun): [defined via the definition of “terrorism”]
terrorism (noun): the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion

Sound familiar?

When characterizing the situation in Iraq, journalists seeking legitimacy might do well to take these definitions into account. (Sorry, Dan, it’s already too late for you.)

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