I am so sick of seeing headlines such as this one reported by Yahoo! today:
"Insurgents Attack Bakery, Mosque in Iraq"
I'm sorry, there is only one proper designation for people who deliberately target civilians in revolt against the authorities and that is terrorist.
All terorrists are insurgents, but not all insurgents are terrorists. The Associated Press, et al, either hasn't picked up their dictionaries lately or they're deliberately using word games to obfuscate the situation in Iraq. (I strongly suspect the latter.)
terrorism: the unlawful use or threat of violence esp. against the state or the public (italics mine) as a politically motivated means of attack or coercion (Merriam-Webster)
OR ... the calculated use of violence (or threat of violence) against civilians (italics mine) in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimindation or coercion or instilling fear (WordNet)
insurgency: The quality or circumstance of being rebellious. An instance of rebellion; an insurgence. (American Heritage)
"Terrorist" is an appropriate and accurate word to describe people who blow up bakeries and saw the heads off civilians. They are not merely "rebels" or "guerrillas," their active targeting of non-combatants places them in the unique category of "terrorists."
My guess is the AP knows this and understands the emotional and ideological recoil at the idea of terrorism. Therefore, the murderous goons in Iraq are merely "insurgents."