I think the problem here is they were literally so poorly characterized
that everyone has forgotten that the Sidjans and every other target in
Silent Assassin was working with or for Sergei, who was participating
nuclear arms dealing outside the law for profit.
They're not really "canonical", the only canonical decision in C47 is
the one to help Lei Ling escape rather than kill her - everything else
is left in the haze of variables.
No, they aren't canonical, hence the "apostrophes" to denote my loose use of the term - it's indeed too much to assume that just because something has a cutscene, it means that's the way it was done -- still, the game does, somehow, encourage you to kill an innocent (although the way it does so is very poor, as serving the poison to Lee Hong doesn't accomplish anything worthwhile whatsoever)
A freelance espionage professional who knew the risks going into the job.
It says "private investigator" in his Contracts bio, to my recollection, and neither "espionage professional" nor "private investigator" says "evil", or at least "particularly harmful". He has to be taken out only because he knows too much. The same happens to the innocent priest and the innocent journalist in Blood Money.
Just because someone "knows the risks going into the job" doesn't mean they deserve to die. Killing an ordinary Russian soldier in Hitman 2 (by all looks, they might not at all know that they're covering up the generals; they're merely told to close off the building for a top secret meeting, and they're doing just that; they're also few of the guards in this game that don't immediately open fire at you when you're approaching a restricted area) earns a Guards Killed moniker which doesn't prevent you from getting Silent Assassin (actually, in Hitman 2, you can still get SA rank even with a civilian killed, meaning that you can sacrifice an innocent and still be liable for the rating that reflects 47's legendary perfection). The security in The Invitation for a Party appears to be in the same boat, even though they're just law-abiding people protecting an embassy and all the VIPs inside.
There's a ton of variables, but if we're going to use the Silent Assassin ranking to be the accurate representation of how 47's known to carry out his assignments and that ranking allows you to kill extra, unrelated people and still obtain 47's legendary perfection status, then it seems safe to say that sacrificing innocents is perfectly fine in this line of work.
Also: I don't see much compassion in knocking somebody out, then stripping them off their clothes and leaving them somewhere cold and unconscious on a snowy field. That might just as well be a cause of death.
Confirms 47 is not the Punisher.
And still, the game, in that little move, exemplifies the fact that 47 isn't a vigilante hero and although his actions do end up thwarting a whole bunch of evil bastards, he should not be at all considered a hero, or that his stance towards his victims is anything but neutral (aside from cases like Sergei). He's not a hero, he's a high-functioning sociopath, to quote another genius in the matters of solving puzzles and figuring out crimes (though from a different angle).
Silent Assassin's whole ending is about 47 declaring he's going to use his skills to kill evil people now
Ummmm... not to my understanding. In the end, he says that he'll be carrying nothing from Gontranno but the lesson to never trust anyone and rely on instincts; if his visit in Gontranno was him trying to humanize himself and he's carrying nothing from it, then he doesn't really have all that much compassion or faith in things anymore.
Vittorio remains a friend to him, and I like to assume he sends him Christmas cards with pretty massive blood money donations to the church, but that doesn't make 47 any less evil.
He accepts the crucifix from Father Vittorio, but then leaves it hanging on the door of the church, as if to say that he's back to his old life and rejects his attempts at subverting his purpose, which is to kill people.
You can make a massive bloodshed - out of innocents, even - the very moment you emerge at the doorsteps of Don Giuliani's mansion, even though 47 has already prayed before entering and obviously has Vittorio on his mind at all times.
Contracts said they have friends with Scotland Yard and the FBI - you
don't get to do that if you're taking contracts to kill high profile
Also worth mentioning is the relationship with the United Nations which is actually a pretty decent plot point, what if ICA wanting badly to buddy-buddy up with them in 1 and 2 (and 3, I suppose); it's a very fair point that killing high profile innocent people isn't a very good thing for the PR, but on the other hand, given 47's aptitude and skill, ICA seems pretty capable of denying any involvement in case priorities shift.
I do wonder how ICA's relationship with all those United Nations and other organizations is faring after that dumbfuck Travis pretty much destroys an entire town and has his "trained professionals" kill a whole load of innocent people. Fuck Travis, he sucks and is an idiot.
However, the way ICA chooses their targets is their matter - politics change, ideas change, and they're the ones giving 47 the orders, and 47 will take on the assignment if the cash is on the nail. ICA might choose not to make any enemies among their CIA/FBI/MI6/UN/whatever else friends, but they're not also in any way under strict affilation with these factions (Abdul Bismillah Malik's death is actually somewhat incovenient to the UN; though 47 is forbidden from killing any of the UN soldiers, he is a liability to the UN's goals still.)
Also: ICA is pretty fallible and sometimes doesn't even know who its clients are, as shown in H1 or H2.
So not the character of 47 as shown in all the games to date
But it really does fit:
A clone made specifically with the single motive of being a killer, that
is his way of life, in his head, his purpose, the only way he truly
knows how to live
He could be off gardening at Vittorio's place and try to lead a peaceful life -- use his lucrative money to buy himself a new identity -- but he doesn't. "I don't belong in this world", "My skills could be of better use elsewhere" are all quotes from the ending of Silent Assassin. He's extremely fit physically on top of being very clever, and he already has a ton of retirement money available to him - he's fit to lead a normal life. He chooses not to.
47 is a living loaded gun, and the one wielding it only needs to pay up to use it. No morality, no ethics.
Again, the games heavily emphasize the idea that supports NoWitnesses' description of the character. Even the promotional material does: Hitman Contracts uses the following taglines in its trailers, a.k.a. promotional material: "When you kill for money, there are no rules", "There is no place for compassion". The accident system from Blood Money, as well as a couple of cutscenes and, of course, the finale, strongly hint that 47 isn't above sacrificing innocents to complete his task or avoid getting his info leaked out to the public, etc. Sacrificing innocents doesn't necessarily ruin your rating in H2, and Contracts still allows you to kill guards (who might not be evil - you're allowed, for instance, to sacrifice a SWAT member, like H&H's law-abiding GIGN, believing in liberte, egalite et fraternite, firmly on the side of the good guys, for all we know - Fournier is the bad guy, not them - in both Deadly Cargo and Hunter and Hunted, and still get Silent Assassin).
"No morality, no ethics" of course should be used in terms of how 47 goes on a job and what mindset he has at the time; while I really do hate the plot of Absolution and the whole Victoria incident, it doesn't mean that 47 doesn't have soft spots or isn't allowed to have friends or colleagues. An evil character is still capable of committing himself to a good cause if there's anything in it for him. It still doesn't mean that 47 can't disturb the peace and create hecatombs on his path to Victoria and Diana's safety.
I like 47's characterization more when he's closer to Golgo 13 than Leon the Professional.