The British government was advised against publicly criticising a report estimating that 655,000 Iraqis had died due to the war, the BBC has learnt.
Iraqi Health Ministry figures put the toll at less than 10% of the total in the survey, published in the Lancet.
But the Ministry of Defence's chief scientific adviser said the survey's methods were "close to best practice" and the study design was "robust".
Another expert agreed the method was "tried and tested".
An in-depth analysis of the study for scientific technobabble types is here, and for the "quick and dirty,"I explained briefly what the study looked at here:
...the more you think about it, the more reasonable the number sounds. Remember, this is only gauging the number of excess deaths in Iraq since the invasion began, compared to the pre-invasion death rate. So not only were civilians included who died in airstrikes or gunfire, but also all the policemen and Iraqi security forces who've died, all the people killed by other Iraqi forces, all the people who've contracted diseases in places without adequate medical facilities, everyone who got sick from contaminated water, heart disease-related deaths due to extra stress and/or air pollution from smoke and jet/hummer fuel... The list of extra hazards and dangers one would face in a failed state with essentially no infrastructure whatsoever would be enormous.
Furthermore, you have to remember that the media is only able to report the relatively small percentage of deaths that happen in areas where it's safe for said media to travel, and in the relatively few instances when they're allowed into places like morgues. The morgues don't allow them in except in special cases, and the authorities are less than forthright with casualty stats even when they know about all of them.