With Iraq at the forefront of political news, lots of people are asking how and when the U.S. can get itself out. Inevitably some people are also asking, “How did we get here?”

The staff of the left-leaning magazine Mother Jones asked the same question several years ago and created an interactive timeline, “Lie by Lie,” in 2006. It is a tremendous feat of research, reporting and design. And instead of letting the project languish after launch, it’s been updated through Feb. 14, 2008.

Mother Jones Lie by Lie timeline

Timelines have always been useful for presenting a series of events in linear order. With the Web’s added benefit of linking and interaction, timelines can now be a rich storytelling format that include massive amounts of information: data, photos, video, maps and links to other websites.

“Lie by Lie” is an elegant execution, one that gives readers many ways of exploring a deep and difficult subject. Craig Stoltz at Web 2.Oh Really has an interesting analysis of the timeline including this caveat:

It proves you can advance a political agenda with digital journalism just as easily as you can in the analog world. Edit, select, tweak, ignore. . .and you can assemble your own version of history, just as certainly as the wingnuts at The Washington Times or the pinkos at the New York Times.

Other examples of timelines:

  • Timelinescience, which shows developments in scientific thought over 1,000 years
  • The evolution of the monarchy in England
  • Hillary Clinton’s run for the Democratic presidential nomination
  • HIV and AIDS milestones

If you want to explore further, Jan Battem of the Netherlands has compiled a timeline index.