January 06, 2015

“The Mother of All Battles”

In the Middle East and Greece, the idiomatic expression “the mother of all ---” has been used to describe the biggest, most extreme or ultimate examples of various things for more than two thousand years.

However, it wasn’t a common phrase in the United States until Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein uttered his famous line about “The mother of all battles” shortly before the First Gulf War in 1991.

In August 1990, Saddam had ordered Iraqi troops to invade Kuwait.

For the next five months, the United States and United Nations tried using sanctions and threats to get Saddam to withdraw, ultimately giving him a mid-January deadline.

Saddam was not impressed.

On January 6, 1991, in a speech marking the 70th anniversary of the modern Iraqi Army, he boasted that Kuwait was eternally part of Iraq and predicted a long struggle in the Persian Gulf against the “tyranny represented by the United States.”

Saddam told the people of Iraq: “The battle in which you are locked today is the mother of all battles…Our rendezvous with victory is very near, God willing.”

US Air Force video about Operation Desert Storm
News reports about this speech immediately made “the mother of all battles” a famous quote and soon gave rise to many variations.

On January 17, 1991, American military forces and troops from a coalition of other countries, launched Operation Desert Storm with massive airstrikes on Iraq.

That day, Saddam claimed to be confident that Iraq would repel the coalition forces. Once again he used his newly famous catchphrase, boasting “The great showdown has begun; the mother of all battles is under way!”

Saddam went on to predict that “the dawn of victory nears as this great showdown begins...The evil and satanic intentions of the White House will be crushed and so will all the blasphemous and oppressive forces.”

Of course, Saddam was wrong. Iraq lost the First Gulf War, amazingly quickly.

President George H.W. Bush decided not to force Saddam out of power. But his son President George W. Bush decided to fix that “mistake” during the Second Gulf War, which he launched in 2003.

Not long after that war began, Saddam was captured. He was eventually tried for “crimes against humanity,” convicted and executed by hanging in 2006.

Today, in addition to being remembered as a brutal dictator, Saddam Hussein is known as the father of the “mother of all battles” and its many linguistic offspring.

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