This is what happened. 9/11 occurred. Cheney and Bush decided that to get the intelligence they wanted and didn't have, they would start torturing prisoners for information. They told their legal people to provide legal defenses, however strained and bizarre, and talked themselves into believing that it wasn't torture. They set up a major torture camp in Gitmo and many smaller ones around the world; they told their military and CIA to take all the gloves off. They did this consciously and with clear pre-meditation. They stuck with their policy even after its essence was exposed so painfully at Abu Ghraib. They were in too deep to go back then. And they deeply believed that the constitution allowed the president unlimited powers in wartime - and that war time was now for ever. The Constitution, in Cheney's view, empowers the presidency to permanent near-dictatorial status for the indefinite future. The dictatorial powers - unencumbered by no law and no treaty - extend to American citizens and on American soil.
This is what they believed. And this is what they did. It was and is illegal. And immoral. And deeply destructive of the need to garner reliable intelligence and to protect American soldiers from future torture at the hands of the enemy. And the dreadful truth is: Bush clearly had no qualms or conflict in this. But he won't own it. History must make him own it. And the rule of law should make him accountable.
In a perfect world, Bush and Cheney would be arrested right after the Inauguration, and sent to the Hague to stand trial for war crimes.