There’s been an interesting discussion on the Forensic Linguistics mailing list about why the U.S. press reports about Iraq have for some time been using the term insurgents. This seems to be parallel to the German use of Aufständische, which had struck me. Was the term chosen for political reasons?
There are certain terms in international law with a specific meaning: insurgents are distinguished from belligerents.
Wikipedia thinks the term insurgent is hard to use without taking a political position.
Janet Cotterill recommended WebCorp, which searches the whole Web and produces concordances and collocates around a node search word of your choice. This is great. You can have it email you the results if you don’t want to hang around waiting. However, it doesn’t reveal much about insurgents at a cursory glance, except that many of them are Iraqi insurgents.
At all events, in international law there are subjects of law, such as nations, and belligerent and insurgent communities may sometimes be regarded as subjects of the law. To quote Brownlie, Principles of Public International Law:
bq. A subject of the law is an entity capable of possessing international rights and duties and having the capacity to maintain its rights by bringing international claims.
or Ignaz Seidl-Hohenveldern, Völkerrecht:
bq. Völkerrechtssubjekte sind diejenigen natürliche und juristischen Personen, auf die die im vorigen Abschnitt behandelten Völkerrechtsregeln … unmittelbar Anwendung finden, denen daraus also unmittelbar Rechte und/oder Pflichten erwachsen.
Belligerent communities seem to be in control of an area and some way further towards possible independence.
This (see sidebar) was also quoted, from Newsweek, May 24th, italics by me:
bq. PRISONERS OF WAR
Geneva III defines the rights of POWs, including not only captured armed forces, militias and resistance groups but civilian support staff. POWs can refuse to answer questions beyond name, rank and serial number and are guaranteed basic levels of humane treatment. Two 1977 protocols, not U.S.-signed, extend coverage to insurgents as long as they obey the laws of war.