Washington — President Bush appointed a conservative former judge and a moderate former Democratic senator Friday to head a special commission to "figure out why" inspectors haven't found the weapons that intelligence experts said Saddam Hussein was hiding in Iraq.
Bush told the panel to report back to him by the end of March 2005, well after the November elections and two years after U.S. troops invaded Iraq.
"Some prewar intelligence assessments by America and other nations about Iraq's weapon stockpiles have not been confirmed," Bush said. "We are determined to figure out why."
Democrats reacted to the new commission with skepticism. They wondered whether any panel picked by the president could be impartial, and they said its findings should be reported before, not after, the presidential election.
"To have a commission appointed exclusively by President Bush investigate his administration's intelligence failures in Iraq does not inspire confidence in its independence," said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California.
Bush said the panel would be bipartisan -- led by Chuck Robb, the former governor and senator from Virginia, and retired judge Laurence Silberman.
Robb, son-in-law of the late President Johnson, has been practicing law since leaving the Senate. Silberman, who served as deputy attorney general in the Nixon and Ford administrations, was named to the appeals court by President Reagan in 1985.