Not really. I’m unsure if I heard this phrase somewhere or if my brain came up with it. But I’ve used it in my novels, The Visa Series, when a British spy explains to his love interest what he does for a living. Sometimes he kills.
She asks him, ‘Are you one of the good guys?’ His response is, ‘There are no good guys, not really,’
I read an article, Killing People Is Wrong, on The Kenya Forum today and it reminded me of this statement.
The article is by The Kenya Forum’s Somali correspondent, and he is talking about the execution of Hassan Hanafi in Mogadishu. Hassan, it appears in the article, has played both sides of the divide at some point in his life. Once a journalist, he has become a press officer for al-Shabaab, led fellow journalists to their deaths.
He too, doesn’t die well. It’s a weird statement, ‘dying well’, as if that can exist. As if we can say, if you go by the bullet that’s horrible, but if by natural courses that’s okay. Death is hardly ever okay. Sometimes how you go though, matters.
I’ve long pondered over extrajudicial killings, torture of dangerous people, trying to save or protect the many by ending the life of the one who endangers them.
This dilemma faced one of the characters of my novel. Hundreds of lives hang on the balance because a violent extremist is planning a terror attack. The authorities know who is behind it, but he won’t talk.
How long do you ask nicely, if asking‘less nicely’ might result in the saving of innocent lives?
In my novel, Darien, my British spy accepts that he is jaded, he looks the other way when these extremists are not ‘asked nicely’. He won’t carry out torture himself, but he also won’t judge those who do. End the one life to save the many. To him, this is the life he chose.
Most of us will say every life holds equal value. But every person also chooses the path they take. So, when a violent extremist is executed, do we mourn that life in the same way we mourn an innocent child killed in a terror attack?
I don’t know. Maybe we should. Maybe we should mourn that fact that we are driven to the point where we see the only option is to end each other; whether innocent child or hardened extremist.
Because this extremist too has people who will mourn him. Or her. They have a story why they’ve picked up that gun and fired into a crowd. There is something that died or wishes to live so strongly in them too, that they see this as their only option.
The man who straps him to a goal post to kill him because he has killed others, also sees this as the best option.
What is the value of life? Who determines it? Who does life belong to? The law? The lawless? The individual? Or God, by Whichever Name we call Him?
None of us can truly ‘make life’. Perhaps we do not then have the right to take what we cannot give. But do we have the right to protect, to save, to serve the greater human existence? And who determines that?
There are no good guys. Not really.